New Tool Available to Bolster Statewide Resilience Against Natural Disasters

As the effects of natural disasters continue to challenge communities across Kentucky, it has become important to prepare for potential energy disruptions that can significantly impact critical services, such as those offered by hospitals, fire stations, water treatment plants and grocery stores.

Maintaining electrical power adds to the community’s resilience, but it requires research and comprehensive planning among utilities, governments and other organizations.

To help communities achieve energy resilience and to support emergency planning strategies, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Office of Energy Policy (OEP), in partnership with Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), has announced the release of “The Kentucky Regional Microgrids for Resilience Study.” 

This study researched microgrids, self-sufficient energy systems that serve a discrete geographic footprint, such as a college campus, hospital complex, business center, or neighborhood. Within microgrids are one or more kinds of distributed energy resources (solar panels, energy efficiency, storage, combined heat & power, generators) that are connected to maintain essential functions.

“The Kentucky Regional Microgrids for Resilience Study responds to our mission to protect and improve Kentucky’s environment and quality of life,” said Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman. “The study is just one example of how public and private partnerships examine new opportunities for energy users and address the energy needs brought on by the effects of manmade and natural disaster.”

The Office of Energy Policy worked with SEPA, a non-profit education and research organization, to identify regions and develop the study.

“We continue our efforts to respond to the rapidly changing energy landscape,” said Kenya Stump, OEP executive director. “This collaborative project has helped our communities explore how they can better assess their energy vulnerabilities, specifically how to assess their critical facility power outage vulnerabilities and how they can plan and identify power sector mitigation activities.

“Our office leveraged its current GIS capabilities to gain a better understanding of what type of critical infrastructure would benefit the most from site-specific nanogrids or, when appropriate, larger community microgrids to connect more than one facility at a time.”

SEPA collaborated with utilities, local emergency management authorities, and other key stakeholders to highlight microgrid deployment strategies across the Commonwealth to bolster state-wide resilience against natural hazards. 

“Microgrids are just one tool in the energy planning and hazard mitigation toolbox,” said Jared Leader, senior manager of research and industry strategy at the Smart Electric Power Alliance. “Through collaboration with utilities, local emergency management authorities, and other key stakeholders, the Commonwealth is taking important steps to protect Kentucky’s critical infrastructure and bolster state-wide resilience against natural threats.”

At the study’s core, SEPA collected an array of geospatial and quantitative data to look at Kentucky’s critical infrastructure and natural hazards. Using industry best practices of site energy resources and back-up power capabilities, SEPA evaluated the natural threats that pose risks to the state’s electricity distribution system and critical infrastructure. Power outages across Kentucky are a major contributor to economic loss that can be mitigated by these projects. 

“Our goal is to share the results of this study to enhance Kentucky’s hazard mitigation planning and prepare communities to access federal funding,” said Stump, “and pave the way for public-private partnerships to deploy microgrids as a tool in energy planning and hazard mitigation.”

The Kentucky Regional Microgrid for Resilience Study is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program (SEP), which provides funding and technical assistance to enhance Kentucky’s energy security, advance state-led energy initiatives, and maximize the benefits of decreasing energy waste. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet awarded a $66,997 grant to Smart Electric Power Alliance to support this project.

Download the Kentucky Microgrid Study here.

For more information about the Kentucky Microgrid Study, or other energy initiatives of the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy, contact OEP Executive Director, Kenya.Stump@ky.org

More about SEPA here. https://sepapower.org/

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