Burns Designing Microgrids for New Jersey Town Center Microgrid Program

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey policy makers have undertaken a series of initiatives and passed legislation to protect the people and infrastructure from future extreme weather events. The latest of those efforts, the New Jersey Town Center Microgrid Program, seeks to enhance power reliability and resilience during grid emergencies. Thirteen “town centers” were awarded grants from the NJ Board of Public Utilities ranging from $140,000 to more than $185,000 to conduct initial microgrid feasibility assessments and develop preliminary engineering designs.

Burns, in close partnership with Gabel Associates, was awarded two projects under this program – one for the City of Paterson, and the other for the borough of Highland Park. In both cases, microgrids, which incorporate various types of energy generation, battery storage, and other electrical equipment and controls, will be designed to allow important connected buildings and critical loads to continue operating for extended periods when the power grid fails. In normal or “blue-sky” periods when there are no disruptions, microgrids operate in “parallel” with the grid and produce some of the required power, while the main grid supplies the remainder. During outage events, the microgrid can operate apart from the main grid in “island” mode. When power is restored, the microgrid can reconnect to the main grid and resume normal operations. Switching between grid-connected and island mode can be designed to happen seamlessly with little or no human interaction.

The City of Paterson project is unique in that among other generation resources, it will seek to incorporate into the microgrid a small hydro-electric generating station at the base of the Paterson Great Falls. Highland Park promises to be an exciting project as well, with the potential of incorporating an innovative community solar power plant into the microgrid.

Photo credit: Paterson Great Falls, Terence McKenna

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