PLATTSBURGH — Most of the City of Plattsburgh's energy is hydroelectricity that comes from Niagara Falls as part of the Niagara Power Project.
"The Plattsburgh Municipal Lighting District is a local utility within a larger regional grid," Patrick Montuori said at the recent forum on creation of a microgrid in the city to address possible widespread loss of power.
A SUNY Plattsburgh student, he is assisting with the study underway now for the N.Y. Prize Community Grid Competition.
Dr. Lauren Eastwood, a sociology professor at SUNY Plattsburgh and a co-chair of the study, said standard power processing (such as the city's) involves a macrogrid, which receives energy from hundreds of miles away.
As opposed to that, she said, "a microgrid is about democratic decision making about how and where our energy is produced."
The New York Power Authority has allotted Plattsburgh 104.5 of the 2,525 megawatts produced at any given time by the Niagara Power Plant.
The city typically uses 85 to 95 megawatts and only tends to use up or surpass the limit during the cold winter months when it has to purchase additional energy from the New York Municipal Power Agency.
"We're one of the only communities with an allotment greater than what we use," said study Co-Chair Dr. Curt Gervich, an associate professor in the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Rates have not changed much since the 1950s; Plattsburgh residents and businesses pay between 2.5 and 4 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on how much energy they use, he said.
That's much lower than the national average of 15 cents, he added, but the current contract expires in 2025.
"If we are not good stewards of this gift, it's conceivable that NYPA would say, 'Plattsburgh doesn’t use all of it's energy, (let's) reduce the allotment,'" Gervich told the Press-Republican in a recent interview.
He said information from the feasibility study will allow the people and businesses of Plattsburgh to make responsible decisions, particularly if the allotment does decrease and necessitates big changes.
"Any conversation that we are having about energy is giving us not only new information," he said, "but also building relationships among community members that will be advantageous when it’s really time to figure out how to respond to changing energy circumstances."