Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp., headquartered in Poughkeepsie, is a regulated distribution utility serving 300,000 electric and 75,000 natural gas customers in portions of 8 counties over a 2,600 square mile service area in the heart of the Mid-Hudson Valley in New York State. Central Hudson is one of the country’s most progressive utilities with a strong interest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, storage technology, and other advanced topics.
Central Hudson has one of the most active net metering programs for solar installations in the Northeast and consistently ranks in the top quartile nationwide for the number of customer-owned, grid-connected photovoltaic systems on a per capita basis in the United States. The rapid growth in grid-connected solar systems within Central Hudson’s service area prompted the New York State Public Service Commission to increase Central Hudson’s net metering cap several times. Presently, there are more than 2,000 PV systems installed or pending, representing more than 22 megawatts of connected generation.
“The growing presence of grid-connected solar and wind systems among Central Hudson customers creates opportunities for the utility to leverage these sources of distributed generation to improve the overall operation of the electric distribution system,” said Charles A. Freni, Senior Vice President of Customer Services. “However, in order take full advantage of the benefits of these distributed resources, future investments in distribution automation will be needed and, ultimately, energy storage will become increasingly important.”
Central Hudson keeps abreast of advances in energy storage, as the technology promises to offer cost-effective solutions to power issues related not only to distributed generation, but also as a means to address voltage control and manage service interruptions. For example, the New York State Public Service Commission is seeking micro-grid proposals from utilities for select or isolated areas vulnerable to electric service interruptions, such as damage caused by major storms. Central Hudson is examining the possibility of incorporating energy storage at a proposed micro-grid location, a first for the utility.
“Energy storage holds much promise for utility operations, and is a major factor in leading the change from the ‘traditional’ utility model based on central generators to one where distributed generation, both customer and utility-owned, will become more prevalent,” said Freni. “Central Hudson recognizes this shift, and sees energy storage as a possible tool in adapting to these changes.”
Central Hudson offers a variety of energy efficiency programs to its residential, commercial, institutional and municipal customers. Examples include rebates on residential high-efficiency heating and cooling systems and on commercial heating systems, incentives for sealing energy-draining leaks and drafts in homes, incentives for purchases of high-efficiency heat pump water heaters, payments for turning in older working refrigerators and freezers, and subsidized lighting upgrades for commercial, municipal, educational, non-profit and institutional buildings.
A few weeks ago, Central Hudson announced the completion of a superconducting fault current limiter system to be installed in its Knapps Corner substation in Poughkeepsie. The NYSERDA project teams Applied Materials, SuperPower, and Three-C Electrical along with Central Hudson and will test and evaluate this advanced system for a one-year period beginning in May. The current fault limiter is designed to help protect Central Hudson’s grid from the potentially devastating effects of electrical faults.
Central Hudson is also keenly aware of the potential growth in electric vehicles, and anticipates wider adoption by the auto industry and consumers with further developments in battery storage. Electricity is cleaner and less expensive than gasoline and diesel fuels, and interest in the environmental and potential cost savings of electric vehicles is anticipated to grow. As the use of electric vehicles becomes widespread, recharging can also alter load curves on the electric system, while at the same time increasing the need for highly reliable electric service. Central Hudson is determined to be prepared for an increasingly electrified vehicle population.
Central Hudson employs approximately 900 professionals; operates 8,600 miles of electric distribution and 600 miles of high-voltage electric transmission lines; and 1,200 miles of natural gas distribution and 165 miles of natural gas transmission lines. It is a utility that is ready and able to evolve along with technology and the changing needs of its customers.