Microgrid Study To Determine Middletown’s Future Resiliency

November 21, 2017
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By Jay Cook |

MIDDLETOWN – An effort to make the township more storm resilient while protecting many essential services is advancing.

On Nov. 13 the governing body agreed to spend a $150,000 grant from the state Board of Public Utilities on a 12-month microgrid feasibility study. The goal is to explore the creation of a backup power source on a portion of Naval Weapons Station Earle’s waterfront base in Leonardo which would connect to more than a dozen municipal, county and federal services.

“It’s a pretty big deal for us, when you think about what happened to Middletown after Sandy,” said Middletown Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger.

A microgrid is defined by the BPU as “a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources (DER) within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid.” Microgrids have the ability to connect and disconnect from the electrical grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island mode.

The wish list of services being sought for connection to the microgrid are NWS Earle’s Waterfront Administration Area, Township of Middletown Sewage Authority, NY Waterways Ferry Terminal, Middletown Public Works and CNG Fueling Facilities, Middletown’s municipal complex, Leonardo Elementary School, Bayview Elementary School, Bayshore Middle School, Monmouth County Highway Department, Middletown Fire Stations 3, 4 and 7 and the Monmouth County Bayshore Outfall Authority, according to the BPU.

Middletown was one of 13 entities in New Jersey awarded grant money in January by the BPU for the studies, which totaled over $2 million. Neptune Township was the only other Monmouth County town given a grant.

Middletown officials are supporting the study, hoping it can provide significant backup to flood-prone areas along the Bayshore.

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Scharfenberger compared the township to a checkerboard with the microgrid protecting one or a few of the squares in a specific area.

“I think we submitted a good proposal,” added township administrator Anthony Mercantante. “Because we were partnering with a federal agency, particularly the military, that made it attractive. We were also a town that was significantly impacted by the last two hurricanes, so clearly there’s a need for power resiliency along the coast.”

Mercantante noted two specific areas in Middletown which could benefit the most: the Route 36 corridor and Port Monmouth. He said Route 36 is a key evacuation route out from the Bayshore which should have a backup.

Also, Phase II of the $110 million Port Monmouth Flood Wall is under construction. “Reliable power to that during a storm is important,” Mercantante said, considering it would protect low-lying areas in the event of another major hurricane.

Cooperation with NWS Earle was necessary for the study to go forward as preliminary plans have the microgrid positioned inside the base’s Leonardo post.

Continuing to invest in storm resiliency is important for the United States Navy, said Dennis Blazak, NWS Earle’s community plans and liaison officer. He said NWS Earle suffered more than $50 million in damages and was out of power for a week after Super Storm Sandy.

“It would mean that if we had another Hurricane Sandy, we’d still be able to operate and do our mission and work with our partners in the community,” Blazak said.

William Addison, NWS Earle’s spokesman, said keeping military operations open is of utmost importance. He said NWS Earle is unique along the East Coast because of its ability to quickly supply ordnance to the Atlantic Fleet’s Carrier and Expeditionary Strike Groups.

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“Nobody can do it on the scale that we do it, and nobody can do it with the speed that we can,” Addison said. “That’s really where it comes into play for us.”

Blazak also said microgrid consideration is laid out in the Joint Land Use Study, a federally funded project by the Department of Defense looking at how NWS Earle and its neighboring Monmouth County communities coexist.

Mercantante said a microgrid would have no connection to the Monmouth County Reliability Project, a proposed 230-kV transmission line travelling from Aberdeen through Hazlet, Holmdel and Middletown before terminating in Red Bank. The Jersey Central Power & Light proposal currently sits before an Office of Administrative Law judge for a preliminary decision.

Middletown awarded the $150,000 grant money to Leidos Engineering, a Massachusetts-based firm, and Scharfenberger anticipates a contract will be signed this week. Mercantante added a public hearing would ensue once the 12-month study is concluded. He also said it’s too early to tell what the cost of a microgrid would be if it’s found feasible, but said grant money and help from different agencies would be important.

Addison echoed those statements, saying the study is a “joint effort.”

“It can’t just be the Navy or the townships,” he said. “We certainly have to work together. We share that shoreline and we share that need.”


This article was first published in the Nov. 16-23, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.

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