After a number of serious storms, culminating in Superstorm Sandy in 2012 which caused billions of dollars in damage and closed parts of the transit system, New Jersey Transit (NJT) wanted to reduce their vulnerability to electric power outages caused by natural or manmade disasters. The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force was charged by President Obama with identifying and working to remove obstacles to resilient infrastructure rebuilding while considering existing and future risks.
Because northern New Jersey and New York City have a higher concentration of economic activity compared to other regions, power failure due to major storms can result in significant disruption. Without power, train service is halted, causing extreme economic and safety impacts. NJT links major points in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, and provides nearly 275 million passenger trips each year.
Sandia National Laboratories was brought in by the DOE based on their prior work in microgrid research and their development of microgrid designs for more than 20 military bases.
An MOU between the DOE, NJT, and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, allowed Sandia to do a feasibility study for a microgrid. Through the partnership with NJT, Sandia applied its Energy Surety Design Microgrid (ESDM), a risk-assessment approach that has been successfully applied to high security installations.
Based on the conceptual design, NJT was awarded approximately $410 million from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop NJ TRANSITGRID, an innovative microgrid capable of supplying highly reliable power to a core section of NJT’s system. The project will include a large-scale gas-fired generation facility and distributed energy resources to supply power during storm-related disruptions or other power failure events.
An umbrella CRADA with a total value of over $1 million was signed so that Sandia could continue working with NJT on jointly developing a technologically and economically feasible microgrid system
NJ TRANSITGRID is the first critical application for public transportation of a design methodology originally developed for military installations. The project will help identify and address gaps that challenge the widespread deployment of microgrids, including regulatory implementation.
NJ TRANSITGRID will be the largest microgrid by capacity and geographical footprint in the U.S. While it will normally be operated while connected to a utility electrical grid, it will also be able to operate in “island mode.” The project has attracted the interest of other cities and organizations, and its success will spur more resilient energy projects.