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Portland Pilots Emergency Microgrid Structures for Disaster Resilience

microgrid structures
(Photo: A PrepHub prototype. Credit: PrepHub.org)

The City of Portland, Portland State University, and Portland General Electric are collaborating on a program to improve disaster resilience in the city through emergency microgrid structures called PrepHubs. An interdisciplinary team from MIT is supporting the effort.

These prototypes are composed of critical lifeline modules forming a flexible kit of parts that can be combined in different ways, according to the program website. “For example, a sidewalk PrepHub allows you to charge a phone, hear a public announcement, and connect with loved ones,” the site explains. A pocket park version has medical supply storage and water tanks, while a civic plaza type contains sanitation services and cooking supplies.

Earlier this month, the Portland City Council voted to approve the PrepHub agreement. PGE will provide power to the PrepHubs from the grid as well as energy storage devices that are supplemented by solar arrays and pedal-power.

“The hubs will be able to recharge emergency communications, equipment, and cell phones during and immediately after a natural disaster,” the partners say. Each hub also offers secure storage for Basic Earthquake Emergency Communication Node (BEECN) cache equipment.

A PrepHub serves as a meeting point to receive resources, reducing panic and helping communities recover, according to the prototype creators. The first one is expected to be installed on the Portland State University campus in 2019.

Each PrepHub is essentially an emergency microgrid. The $300,000 pilot project aims to ultimately build 40 to 50 additional microgrid statues in Portland parks that will become public landmarks, Microgrid Knowledge’s Lisa Cohn reported. Portland will be the first city to have a grid-connected PrepHub, Conrad Eustis, director of retail technology strategy for PGE told the outlet.

“Successful disaster response depends on partnerships,” said Maria Pope, president and CEO of PGE. “This project will also inform PGE’s work to use technological advances to build a smarter, more resilient grid for customers.”

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