NJ Transit Switches to Renewables for Microgrid, Plans Nov. 25 Solicitation

Oct. 29, 2020
NJ Transit dropped plans to include a 140-MW natural gas power plant in one of the country’s largest microgrid projects in an effort to have it run entirely on renewable resources.

The New Jersey Transit Corp., called NJ Transit, dropped plans to include a 140-MW natural gas power plant in one of the country’s largest microgrid projects in an effort to have it run entirely on renewable resources.

The issue centers on the NJ Transitgrid, a $577 million microgrid designed to provide reliable service on a key portion of the rail system between New York City and northern New Jersey.

The project was conceived after Superstorm Sandy caused widespread, lengthy power outages along the East Coast in 2012. Two years later, the Federal Transit Administration awarded $410 million for the project.

“NJ Transitgrid is a critical resiliency project that ensures we can maintain limited, but vital, rail service for our customers in the event of local and regional power interruptions,” NJ Transit president and CEO Kevin Corbett said October 21 after the agency’s board approved revising the scope of the project.

“We will be incentivizing the national and international developer community to come up with the most innovative designs that will allow us to maximize the use of renewable energy for this project,” Corbett said.

Stipends for pre-qualified bidders

NJ Transit plans to select up to four pre-qualified bidders for the project through a solicitation to be launched November 25. The pre-qualified bidders will be invited to participate in a request for proposals, set to be issued in December 2021. The agency plans to select a winning bidder in December 2022.

The prequalified bidders will receive stipends designed to foster “the most creative, environmentally sound bid proposals.” The board authorized NJ Transit to grant a total of $3 million in stipends.

There have been major advances in renewable energy technology since the microgrid project was conceived in 2014, according to a presentation to NJ Transit’s board.

Even before the gas-fired plant was pulled from the project, NJ Transitgrid included solar and energy storage plus distribution infrastructure and a hardened substation.

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NJ Transit staffers expect storms to continue to threaten the agency’s operations.

A regional outage would affect 200,000 NJ Transit and Amtrak customers a day, costing $42 million a day in lost wages, according to agency staff.

Diesel generators are not a solution to maintaining the rail system’s power because the fuel faces supply risks after storms and they raise air quality concerns, staff said.

Microgrid to participate in PJM

The planned microgrid will be capable of selling power into the PJM Interconnection markets and to Amtrak, according to the presentation.

Among the project’s benefits, it will reduce cybersecurity risks NJ Transit faces, staff said.

The revised project reflects the clean energy priorities of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy who has set a goal for the state of getting all electricity from emissions-free resources by 2050.

New Jersey’s renewable portfolio standard requires utilities to get half their power from renewable energy resources by the end of this decade.

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About the Author

Ethan Howland

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