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NJ Transit Plans New Micro-Grid to Keep System Up When Grid Goes Down

8-26-13

By David Cruz
NJ Today

NJ Transit has gotten mixed reviews for its planning for and reaction to Hurricane Sandy, so today was an effort to show some forward thinking. With the governor and the Energy Secretary on hand, NJ Transit announced that it is taking the first steps to plan for the construction of NJ TransitGrid, a so-called micro-grid that would allow the transit system to operate independently of the main grid in case of an emergency, like Sandy.

“This storm and its aftermath will be a wasted opportunity if we don’t learn from what failed during that period of time and then try to use the technology and the intellect that is both in our state and in our country to try to come up with a better way to do things,” said Gov. Chris Christie at a press conference announcing the plan in Secaucus.

The idea is to keep the system up and running so commuters can get to and from work when the power goes down as it did for weeks in some parts of the state last year. It would be built by Sandia National Laboratories, which has built several similar systems for the military and is also studying the possibility of a micro-grid in Hoboken. A Sandia Labs rep says a new micro-grid would also lay the groundwork for the use of alternative energy sources.

“We would consider all sorts of different technologies, including renewable energy sources, combined heat and power and more traditional sources, and so as we were talking about earlier this is a wonderful opportunity for integrating clean energy technologies into an application that would boost the resiliency of the grid,” said Bob Hwang, a senior manager with Sandia National Laboratories.

The micro-grid would keep Penn Station, Secaucus Junction and the light rail systems in Newark and Hudson County running in case of a power failure, critical to getting industry and financial markets back on track.

“As you know, New Jersey took one on the chin during Sandy,” said Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, “but I think its citizens have shown remarkable resilience on their own in the aftermath, and now this is about getting to an energy infrastructure that is as resilient as the citizens of this state.”

But for such a big announcement, NJ Transit officials were reticent about talking to us. A spokesman said the agency didn’t want to distract from today’s announcement. The agency, one source said, was wary of having to again answer questions about upcoming legislative hearings on their Hurricane Sandy preparations, which critics claim they ignored.

The study itself will take five to six months to complete and will cost about $1 million. As for the time-frame and the price tag for the implementation of the new grid, at this time, that is unknown.