By Wayne Jebian
Several of the state’s top politicians gathered Wednesday afternoon at the Parkville Senior Center in Hartford’s Latino business district to announce the installation of a natural gas turbine there.
Those attending included Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy; U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; state Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford; and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra.
The $2.06 million project is one of nine planned statewide by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection at a total cost of $18 million to provide backup sources of electricity at strategic locations in the event of a power outage. The announcement came on the 10th anniversary of the 2003 blackout that shut down much of the East Coast.
The generator at the Senior Center, located at 11 New Park Ave., is intended to provide emergency power for a “microgrid” of vital services including a gas station, a supermarket, a school, the Park Branch of the Hartford Public Library and the senior center itself. The choice of location is the only one in the current plan located in a Latino neighborhood, and, unlike the others, this generator will be powering largely private enterprises.
Speakers said this locally focused action was the result of thinking about the global problem of rapid changes to normal weather patterns.
“Over the past 18 months, we have experienced winter storms in October; we have experienced hurricanes,” Segarra said. “Oftentimes, when you think about places affected by extreme weather, you think of shoreline communities or rural communities, but cities are also impacted, as we are familiar with. We have large populations that are affected when we lose power. This microgrid project leverages the concentrated urban development so that our residents and those from surrounding towns can count on us for essential services during power outages.
Hazel Magwood, a 91-year-old Parkville resident, spoke at the event. She said she had been trapped in her home for 11 days during this year’s February blizzard.
“The new microgrid will be a great help to seniors like myself who live alone to have the center open and services available. This can be lifesaving. This new program will help the residents of Parkville in times of great need.”
Malloy used the occasion to talk about national environmental policy.
“The president gets it: We have to take care of our environment. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — they are going to inherit the world that we leave them,” Malloy said. “The president has been laser-like in his expression of the desire to combat climate change, to take as much carbon out of the air as humanly possible.”
“We are the first state to have a statewide microgrid program,” the governor continued. “What that means is, we want to go from place to place to place and make sure that as many of our communities as possible can make sure that there’s a grocery store open, that there’s a senior center or a school that’s powered up even when the grid goes down, even when all the wires are down, so that we can make sure that some level of services are provided to the citizens in those communities.”
Blumenthal also touched on national policy.
“One of the things I did as attorney general was to sue the president of the United States when he failed to enforce the law … not this president,” he quickly added, raising laughter from the crowd.
Blumenthal said the problem with the weather was not climate change, but “climate disruption” caused by carbon emissions.
In addition to local officials, an administrator from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection was present. Kurt Spalding, a Connecticut native, said the state and its political leaders were ahead of the rest of the country in preparing for the kind of climate disruption that the country has recently experienced.
“I can’t say this in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, but you are doing a great job in leading. This latest round of legislation is fantastic,” he said, referring to the governor’s bill empowering DEEP to move forward with the microgrid generators. “I do want to credit Dan Malloy in that effort.”