Not Wanting to Become Texas, New Jersey Grants $4 Million for Microgrid Studies

March 12, 2021
New Jersey regulators last week approved an additional $4 million for detailed microgrid designs as part of its ongoing Town Center Distributed Energy Resources Microgrid Program.

New Jersey regulators last week approved an additional $4 million for detailed microgrid designs as part of its ongoing Town Center Distributed Energy Resources Microgrid Program.

The proposed microgrids, all for government entities, would serve 24 FEMA Category IV facilities (such as hospitals, police stations and water supply facilities) and 32 FEMA Category III facilities (those that can serve as public shelters such as elementary and secondary school and college facilities).

“As the recent events in Texas have reminded us, infrastructure resilience is critical to maintaining reliable energy and utility services in the event of an emergency,”  said Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

After Superstorm Sandy devastated New Jersey ‘s coast in  2012, the state invested $5 billion on infrastructure upgrades. “In my opinion, it’s $5 billion well spent. Are we perfect? Far from it. But we are moving in a direction that hopefully will ever allow something like happened in Texas to happen here in New Jersey,” said Fiordaliso during the board meeting.

Several million Texans lost power and water in February after a historic freeze crippled the flow of natural gas and forced hundreds of power plants off line. The disaster is linked to dozens of deaths, some from hypothermia.

Approval of New Jersey’s microgrid funding comes in the second phase of the town center program. In the first phase, the board granted $2,133,980 to 13 microgrid projects for feasibility studies. Phase 2 was designed to help move those projects toward development and construction by providing incentives for detailed project design, Fiordaliso said.

Eleven applicants applied for funding in Phase 2. The eight winners are: Township of Montclair $679,500; Borough of Highland Park $196,450; Hudson County $376,000; City of Hoboken $550,000; Township of Neptune $526,100; State of New Jersey Department of Treasury (for City of Trenton) $250,000; City of Atlantic City $1,125,000; Township of Woodbridge $296,950.

Allows use of fossil fuels

In addition to approving the money, the board decided to allow use of fossil fuel generation within the microgrids, saying it is necessary to ensure resilience.

“While the board acknowledges and supports the state’s goal of de-carbonization, existing technology and cost considerations currently do not allow for renewable DERs alone, or renewable DERs coupled with energy storage, to provide the level and length of resilience that critical facilities need,” said the order. 

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At the same time, the board urged the award winners to work toward minimizing use of fossil fuels and increase use of renewables.

As proposed, the projects include 10.5 MW of new or existing solar PV generation and 2.9 MW of new or existing battery storage. They also incorporate at least 30 new or existing electric vehicle charging stations. Together they would avoid over 24,000 tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to the board.

Largest funding winner: Atlantic City

Atlantic City, which won the largest award in Phase II, plans to build a 20-MW microgrid which includes installation of an additional combined heat and power plant at its Midtown Thermal Control Center. The microgrid will serve AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Boardwalk Hall, and Caesars/Ballys hotels and casino.

Mayor Marty Small said that Atlantic City is investing more than $100 million in resilience. “And now we are close to having one of the largest microgrids in New Jersey.”

DB Energy Assets, an affiliate of DCO Energy, is the owner of the Midtown Plant.

 To our knowledge, nothing of this scale and scope exists anywhere to support critical energy services to an urban community during periods of weather and other emergencies,” said Frank DiCola, DCOs executive chairman.

Other winning microgrids serve a range of facilities, among them police and fire stations, government offices, schools and colleges, water and wastewater plants, senior living facilities, gas stations, stores and restaurants.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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