New Jersey becomes latest state to invest in microgrids

Connecticut is the first to develop a statewide microgrid, and it looks like parts of New Jersey soon will follow in attempts to learn from the Superstorm Sandy disaster.

During Sandy, the few communities that had smart grids and back-up solar power fared much better than those that didn't.

For New Jersey, the current focus is on its transit system, the third largest in the nation, carrying 900,000 people a day and a major evacuation route for Manhattan. The power went out during both Superstorm Sandy ($400 million in damages) and Hurricane Irene.

This is the first time a microgrid is being developed for a transit system. N.J. TransitGrid is a partnership between the Department of Energy (DOE), its Sandia National Lab, the State of New Jersey, N.J. Transit and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

The microgrid will keep the power on during storms and whenever the central grid is compromised.

"As we rebuild New Jersey from Superstorm Sandy, I am committed to making our state stronger and more resilient. N.J. TransitGrid is an important step in that process," says N.J. Gov. Chris Christie. "This first-of-its-kind electrical microgrid will supply highly reliable power during storms, and help keep our public transportation systems running during times of disaster, which is critical not only to our economy, but also emergency and evacuation-related activities."

N.J. Transit is extremely vulnerable to flooding and is also in the process of raising critical power substations and installing nearly 600 steel catenary power poles.

The microgrid will have more than 50 megawatts of power, consisting of smart grid technologies and distributed energy resources, such as backup generators, small wind and solar, and energy storage.

"I think it will be a model for the country," says Christie. "People across the country that have either been affected by natural disasters or have not yet faced that kind of problem will benefit from the technology we develop here."

Sandia National Lab has designed microgrids that are up and running at more than 20 military bases in the U.S. Its tool, the Energy Surety Design Methodology, allows communities to evaluate their regional energy needs, identify advanced solutions to improve the reliability and resiliency of their electric grids, and understand the most cost-effective strategies for system upgrades.

New York's new Energy Highway Blueprint appropriates $250 million for smart grid technologies to "create the most advanced energy management control center in the U.S."

This article originally appeared at Sustainable Business News. To learn more about microgrids and the convergence of sustainability and technology, be sure to check out VERGE SF Oct. 14-17.

Train station image by lumachrome via Flickr.