Town gets grants to strengthen public safety

Fairfield was awarded one of eight communities to receive a portion of grants totaling $18 million from Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Microgrid Pilot Program established through Public Act 12-148, An Act Enhancing Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Fairfield-microgridgrant

The town has received a microgrid grant from the state DEEP. Grant advocates include, from left, Fire Chief Richard Felner, state Rep. Brenda Kupchick, Public Works Assistant Director Ed Bowman, state Rep. Tony Hwang and Police Capt. Donald Smith.

Microgrids are small special purpose electric power grids. Fairfield’s soon-to-be-installed system will interconnect and manage its two emergency generators, one of 50kW, the other 250kW, both at the police station, and its 47kW photo voltaic cells installed on the fire department roof and atop Operation Hope’s building.

The coordinator of the Fairfield team whose application earned the $1.16 million to fund the new microgrid system was town Public Works Assistant Director Ed Bowman, whose skills and knowledge will enable Fairfield’s public safety resources to operate at full capacity 24/7 when United Illuminating’s power source is compromised, and to maximize green power in doing so.

This will hopefully become a fail-safe system within the year. The town’s only direct capital cost, Bowman said, was “less than $100,000” to acquire the 50kW generator and now convert it from diesel to natural gas. The larger unit was paid for under an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant (the Stimulus Program) and the two photovoltaic units by another state grant.

The microgrid grant will fund the necessary interconnect agreement between the town and UI and the design, engineering and implementation of the interconnect control system to be completed by Schneider Electric, a U.S. based global energy management consulting firm.

The technology behind the microgrid assures the generators function at maximal efficiency and makes power provision greener by drawing first from the photovoltaic cells, then on the 250kW and 50Kw natural gas units.

State Reps. Tony Hwang and Brenda Kupchick recognized Bowman and first responder representatives, Fire Chief Richard Felner and Police Captain Donald Smith, and the first selectman’s office for their collaborative effort in presenting a winning grant application to the state.

Fairfield submitted an application that won in a field that included more than 36 submissions. The news event also served to describe how the grant will serve to strengthen Fairfield’s emergency readiness and public safety.  Hwang and Kupchick are members of the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee.

“This grant is a necessary part toward saving lives in a crisis or disaster,” Hwang said. “Proper allocation of public funds to assure public safety is an important governmental role and I weigh that seriously against the budgetary constraints our state and taxpayers are currently experiencing. That said, I would support this 100 times over to insure that we’re able to provide safety and save lives in the case of an emergency or crisis that impact our residents and community.”

He emphasized this grant will also benefit surrounding communities such as Westport, Weston and Easton as their emergency calls can be answered if their community lost UI power because of reciprocal call routing systems already in place.

“Every community should explore alternative energy and power resources to ensure public safety is the first priority in emergencies and disasters,” Hwang said.

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