Microgrids Aim to Improve Energy Reliability

energyMicrogrid feasibility studies plan to increase energy reliability and resiliency

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the Christie Administration made it a priority to improve energy resiliency and the emergency preparedness and response of the utility companies. Therefore, the State Energy Master Plan’s (EMP) 2015 Update contained a new section on hardening and improving utility infrastructure resiliency.  This supports the establishment of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) such as microgrids to improve the grid’s resiliency and reliability in the event of a major emergency. Recently, Richard S. Mroz, President of the NJ Board of Public Utilities, announced the Board’s Town Center Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Microgrid program is funding feasibility studies for thirteen separate proposed town center microgrids across the State.

A microgrid is an energy system capable of providing energy independent of the national energy grid using advanced energy management to combine generation, such as renewables and generators, along with storage and other smart features.  Systems can run independently for hours or days, depending on the overall capacity. Such a system provides emergency power to communities during outages or blackouts of the national grid.

Richard S Mroz“As these town center microgrids are developed around the state, communities will have the power and freedom to keep critical facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, water and wastewater treatment plants and buildings used to shelter residents operational and running independent of the grid during emergencies,” said President Mroz.

In Trenton, the state capital of New Jersey, officials toured an existing Trenton Thermal Energy District Network, which would serve as the technology hub for a proposed Downtown Trenton Microgrid. The system is managed by Veolia North America, a firm that is increasingly working with North American cities and counties to develop smart systems that manage energy, water and transportation. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (Board) is furthering the State Energy Master Plan’s (EMP) priorities of improving energy resiliency and increasing the use of DER microgrid technologies by funding thirteen Town Center DER Microgrid feasibility studies.

Bill Golubinski“A distributed generation facility in downtown Trenton would improve resiliency by reducing the potential for grid failures related to major weather events or other causes from impacting critical government services,” said Mr. Golubinski.

The Downtown Trenton Microgrid would connect and allow critical facilities within the microgrid to remain operational while the grid is down and also offer increased energy efficiency.  Additionally, the Microgrid would help to secure financial, legal and industrial data and records in the Taxation, Justice and Labor Buildings. Along with enabling continued government services, the microgrid would power, heat, and cool buildings that could serve as assembly areas or emergency shelters. 

On June 30, 2017, after receiving and evaluating thirteen applications for proposed microgrids and the potential benefits offered, the Board approved a budget modification to fund all thirteen applications at a total cost of $2,052,480. The program was developed to provide incentives for local and state government agencies to study the feasibility of Town Center DER microgrids.