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NYPA approves $52M for digital communications, storage demonstration project

The New York Power Authority approved $52 million for the final phase of construction of new digital communication systems on its transmission lines to improve the efficiency of the state's electricity system.

Funding for the final phase of the Communications Backbone initiative that was announced in 2017 will cover the costs of installing optical ground wire along several transmission lines throughout the state and microwave systems in southeastern New York.

"These measures will improve the reliability of the Power Authority's statewide power grid by allowing operators to be more informed and responsive to changing conditions on our transmission lines," New York Power Authority, or NYPA, President and CEO Gil Quiniones said in a Jan. 21 news release.

The program supports Gov. Andrew Cuomo's effort to modernize the state's power grid to better accommodate intermittent renewable energy sources as part of New York's Green New Deal and clean energy goals.

The initiative, estimated to cost about $153 million, will lead to better analytics and improved operations and business decisions and will reduce reliance on commercial telecommunications providers. It is also a critical component in NYPA's ambition to become the first end-to-end digital utility in the U.S.

The program is expected to be completed in 2021.

NYPA separately announced a collaboration with energy storage company Zinc8 Energy Solutions to develop a demonstration energy storage system using new zinc-air energy storage technology in western New York state.

The project will be able to provide backup power, help level grid demand, and move the state further toward a carbon-free electric grid supported by renewable energy resources, according to a Jan. 17 release.

The storage system will support Cuomo's storage goal of 3 GW by 2030 and 100% electricity from zero-carbon emission sources by 2040.

NYPA will support the development, fabrication and installation of the 1 MWh energy storage unit at a commercial scale over three years, for which it is actively investigating potential sites. The final demonstration site is expected to be set in the first quarter of 2020, and the project is expected to be installed in 2022.