The city council for Atlantic City, N.J, voted unanimously Wednesday to take the initial steps toward developing a town center microgrid to provide a safe haven for the community during disasters.
In a 9-0 vote, the council approved a resolution to seek funding through the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities for a feasibility study. The BPU is now accepting applications for $1 million in grant money to help municipalities and government entities begin microgrid projects.
City counselor Kaleem Shabazz, who serves as chairman of planning and development for the council, said that the city’s desire for a microgrid was born out of Superstorm Sandy. The 2012 storm pummeled the city, knocking out power to 220,000 customers of local utility Atlantic City Electric.
The storm’s mark remains on the city, with damaged houses left unclaimed. Homeowners walked away because they could not afford repairs, Shabazz said in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge.
“We’re still feeling the impact. So the application sparked our interest,” he said.
Planning staff presented the idea of the town center microgrid as part of a larger energy efficiency undertaking by the city, he said. The city has concentrated electrical demand centered around its casinos.
It’s not yet clear where the microgrid will be located, but one possibility is the area of the shuttered Trump Plaza casino.
As a town center microgrid, the project would serve critical facilities and offer haven for community residents to seek shelter, recharge phones and secure other services when a disaster knocks out grid power.
The city receives power from Atlantic City Electric, a subsidiary of Pepco, which is owned by Exelon. The parent company is viewed as a utility leader in microgrids, particularly subsidiary Commonwealth Edison. The Chicago utility has proposed several microgrid projects and is developing an advanced microgrid controller, designed to manage multiple microgrids.
The New Jersey BPU expects to provide 5-12 grants for communities to study the feasibility of developing town center microgrids. Only state agencies and local governments may apply for the money. The BPU began accepting applications for the grants in late January (Docket No. QO16100967).
The town center microgrid program evolved out of Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to make the state more storm resilient following Sandy. Funding is initially limited to storm-vulnerable areas identified by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) for potential microgrids.
To receive the state funds, a town center microgrid must have a nucleus of critical buildings — such as hospitals, police stations, and shelters that offer emergency services. During power outages, the microgrid will provide electricity for the facilities. When the grid is functioning normally, the microgrid will provide cost-effective service.
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