During Tropical Cyclone Sandy in October 2012, over 2.6 million electricity customers in New Jersey lost power and thousands continued to struggle without it for weeks. The estimated costs from property damage were around $65 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina in U.S. history. The aftermath of the storm underscored the need for more reliable grid infrastructure technologies in vulnerable coastal communities. Today, the U.S. Department of Energy and the state of New Jersey are partnering to deploy a microgrid in the repair of New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) northeastern corridor, to be called the NJ TransitGrid.
NJT is the third largest transportation system in America, with a daily ridership of nearly 900,000, and is one of the most important access points to New York City. During Sandy, the NJT rail operations center was flooded by 8-feet of water, and more than 300 rail vehicles were damaged. The loss of NJT during Sandy was devastating to relief and evacuation efforts; total estimated costs to NJT were $400 million, and as of June 2013, 119 rail vehicles are still awaiting repair. The future NJ TransitGrid will ensure that trains keep running when the grid goes down by adding grid-independent generation capacity in excess of 50 MW.
Microgrids use local and distributed energy generation and storage assets to enable communities, campuses, and organizations to operate independently of the power grid.. The NJ TransitGrid is the first system of its kind deployed in a major civilian transit system. The microgrid technologies and management systems to be used in New Jersey have been undergoing development and demonstrations by the military at major installations in Hawaii and Colorado. It’s no coincidence that these technologies are gaining interest in communities vulnerable to natural disasters.
At this point, though, the NJ TransitGrid is just a concept with a $1 million budget from the federal government to plan over the next 5 to 6 months exactly how the system will work and what assets it will employ. Department of Defense microgrid programs have used a variety of traditional energy generation assets like diesel generation sets, solar PV, and wind, along with some cutting-edge energy storage technologies like vehicle to grid (V2G)-enabled plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).
The fact that the NJ TransitGrid will be deployed on a transit system presents opportunities to use the vehicles for energy storage and/or generation with advanced batteries. Portions of NJT’s 2,000-plus buses can be converted to V2G-enabled PEVs, providing reserve power or balancing grid frequency when not in use, and batteries installed on the NJT’s light rail lines can capture energy from braking trains. These technologies are just emerging in demonstration projects and are, therefore, costly to implement. However, increased adoption by the military and the major rail lines should drive those costs down, making microgrids attractive for communities vulnerable to natural disasters across the globe.
Tags: Clean Transportation, Distributed Energy, Microgrids, Natural Disasters, Smart Energy Program, Smart Transportation Program
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