New Jersey Prepares for Second Round of Microgrid Funding

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New Jersey expects to begin accepting applications in November for its second round of microgrid funding, part of a program that already has 13 towns studying the feasibility of microgrids.

As a precursor, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities plans to seek comments next month on a draft proposal for the second round of the New Jersey Township Microgrid Program. The “straw proposal” is designed to generate discussion and lead to the development of a “more informed” proposal, said Peter Peretzman, public information officer for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

The board isn’t expected to make a funding decision before the end of 2019, he said.

Investigating microgrid funding from the DOE

Right now, the state clean energy budget includes $4 million for the microgrid program. “Separately, board staff is working under a grant from the US Department of Energy to develop a funding mechanism for the development and construction of microgrids,” he said.

The funding mechanism is still under development and the federal grant is separate from the $4 million in the clean energy budget

There is no way of knowing how many projects will receive the microgrid funding, he said.

Feasability studies for 13 New Jersey town microgrids propose a range of distributed energy resources, hailing microgrids as the solution to the outages, flooding, sewage overflows, river pollution and other challenges that the towns experienced during Superstorm Sandy.

“The perfect energy resilient infrastructure option that should be considered in Atlantic City is the development of a microgrid,” said Atlantic City’s study.

Miicrogrid challenges in New Jersey

In addition to focusing on the benefits of installing microgrids, some of the feasibility studies identified challenges to implementing the projects.

For example, the city of Hoboken said that New Jersey’s franchise right restrictions limit the ability of non-utility entities to produce and distribute energy to non-contiguous properties. The city hired the Environmental Defense Fund to study these limits, and found uncertainties about a town’s authority to operate microgrids.

“It was recommended that microgrid development be pursued with the collaboration of both Public Service Electric and Gas, as well as the Board of Public Utilities,” said the study.

Hoboken proposed two microgrids for separate locations. The first is a $30.5 million facility that would generate 7.4 MW of distributed energy resources , including natural gas and diesel reciprocating engines, combined heat and power (CHP), and solar-plus-batteries. The second microgrid would cost $11.5 million and generate 1 MW of distributed energy resources, including natural gas reciprocating engines.

Like Hoboken, Atlantic City identified public policy challenges. Its report looked at two public policy options that would overcome obstacles to distributing power from the city’s proposed microgrid.

Create private wire network?

One option is a retail “bypass” that would create a private wire network in Atlantic City. This would require changes to existing New Jersey laws as well as enabling legislation. Or as an alternative the microgrid developer could partner with Atlantic City Electric. The microgrid would rely on the utility’s distribution network, modified to create islanding during weather and other emergency circumstances, the study said.

Atlantic City proposed retrofitting the Midtown Thermal Control Center (MTCC), which provides heating, cooling and emergency power to casinos and other facilities in the city. The study examined aggregating MTCC’s customers’ electric and thermal loads to establish a platform for implementing a microgrid. It proposed a 14-MW CHP plant, plus natural gas engines, which together would create a 19.3-MW microgrid.

microgrid funding

“The perfect energy resilient infrastructure option that should be considered in Atlantic City is the development of a microgrid,” said Atlantic City’s study. Photo of Atlantic City by Creative Family/Shutterstock.com

The city of Hoboken, which is one square mile, with 55,000 residents, described the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

“During heavy rain events the city’s combined sewer overflow system becomes overwhelmed resulting in shallow urban ponding and wet weather discharges of sewerage to the Hudson River,” said the study. “On October 29, 2012 Superstorm Sandy exposed many….vulnerabilities. The storm produced less than an inch of rain in the city; however, the 13- foot storm surge from the Hudson River resulted in 8 feet of flooding. Damages were estimated in the billions.”

The city of Camden proposed a “sustainability loop” that would transmit green energy from Covanta to the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) wastewater treatment plant.

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“The Sustainability Loop is designed to have the CCMUA send Covanta its treated effluent to use as cooling water for Covanta’s waste‐to‐steam plant… With the completion of this project, the CCMUA would be 100% off the grid and 100% resilient in the face of power outages. The goal is to power the CCMUA with sludge, waste and the sun,” the study said.

Hudson County proposed an array of seven 200-kW microturbine generators producing electricity and steam. The turbine generators would produce enough power to meet the needs of the facilities connected to it, with waste heat generating steam for distribution through the campus network.  The county said it selected the turbines because “the technology is robust, reliable, efficient and achieves one of the highest availability targets compared to other available technologies.”

In addition to the microturbine generators, the study recommended solar PV.

Information about the 13 microgrid projects is available here.

Microgrid benefits

In its plan, Atlantic City summarized the benefits of a microgrid.

“The proposed Atlantic City Microgrid delivers comprehensive societal benefits associated with energy efficiency gains, reduced environmental impacts as well as establishing the provision of resilient emergency medical and public shelter facilities.”

If utilities, customers and government agencies are willing to work together on the project, the study said, “There is no better circumstance that presents the close geographic nexus of medical and public sheltering facilities, available generation assets, and customers excited about a microgrid initiative, anywhere else in the state of New Jersey.”

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