The New Jersey Transit recently announced plans to build a microgrid to power its most heavily traveled rail lines. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and other state and federal agencies supported the project.
Microgrids are small complexes of buildings or infrastructure that have their own source of power, sufficient to keep them operational should power from the local utility go down. The program has backing from the Department of Energy, and means that northern New Jersey’s portfolio of energy sources will become more distributed. In normal times the transit system will be pumping power into the grid, earning some money back for its investment.
One of the main structural problem with microgrids is electrocution, but that’s fixable. Distributing energy production works well when the grid is functioning normally, but when the main grid blacks out, if microgrids keep putting power out, they endanger utility workers. Even the relatively few homes in Superstorm Sandy-hit areas that had solar panels couldn’t use them because they automatically went offline after the blackout in order to protect workers.
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