The Microgrid Self-Sustaining Jersey City’s Municipal Fleet

Priscilla ValdezFebruary 11, 2022

Microgrids have typically been used as a resource in emergency weather conditions, in places prone to power outages and in remote areas without grid access. Recently, however, they are popping up with more frequency in urban cities, at hospitals and universities.

In short, microgrids are small-scale electricity networks that can work in tandem with the traditional grid or that can be disconnected to function autonomously. Microgrids can run on power from sources both renewable and nonrenewable, but with sustainability on the mind, many are seeing the opportunity in creating microgrids powered by solar or wind power.

Not only does this give organizations the advantage of using only clean electricity, but it is also reassuring to know that local hospitals, fire stations or grocery stores are covered in case of power outages.

One city had a different idea for the use of microgrids and saw great opportunity in conjunction with a plan for their electric municipal fleet and EV garbage trucks.

Jersey City’s self-sustainable microgrid

As part of Jersey City’s Energy Savings Improvement Program, the city is set to build the first self-sustainable municipal microgrid in the country. The microgrid will make use of a 1.2-MW solar panel array installed in 2020 and is expected to save taxpayers over $21 million in its first two decades of operation. It will power critical city facilities, as well as the municipal EV fleet and EV garbage trucks.

Jersey City was the first city on the East Coast to deploy five all-electric rear loader refuse trucks in 2020 as part of Mayor Steven M. Fulop’s executive order to fully electrify the municipal fleet by 2030. Along with the electric garbage trucks, the order includes adopting four new electric police vehicles, 24 charging stations for municipal and public use and the first EV-only parking zones in New Jersey.

The solar-powered microgrid will set a promising precedent for the city going forward, ensuring that the vehicles are emission-free from charging to driving. The energy savings program and microgrid proposal is being developed by Schneider Electric, with adjacent plans to add more rooftop solar panels, LED lighting and other infrastructure updates at 22 city facilities. In all, these measures will serve to keep public facilities running throughout emergencies, with a 100 percent reduction in GHG emissions and without the need to rely on the larger grid.

Working toward resilience and sustainability

Today, New Jersey is touted as one of the greenest states in the country in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives. This has come to be in the horrific and impactful aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. In addition to being one of the costliest storms in US history, Sandy left over 8 million people in New Jersey and neighboring states without power for weeks. As a result, the state immediately invested $5 billion into infrastructure upgrades and has since launched initiatives like the Town Center Distributed Energy Resources Microgrid Program to explore ways of protecting important facilities from mass power outages.

The microgrid program has analyzed and identified 24 town centers in the most Sandy-affected counties in NJ for microgrid feasibility. While most of these grids will run on fossil fuels initially, the development is meant to be a first step toward establishing resilience and sustainability until fully renewable power becomes more attainable.

What this means for other municipalities

For municipal fleets around the country that are in the process of electrifying, Jersey City sets an example of what could come next. At this point, we know that despite the promise of zero tailpipe emissions, the sustainability of EVs ultimately comes down to the electricity powering them. As long as EVs are charged on coal- or fossil fuel-based grids, they will not be able to demonstration their true potential as a zero-emission alternative to ICEVs.

In addition to a 100 percent reduction in fleet GHGs, renewably powered microgrids offer fleets major savings on fuel. Microgrids can help fleets overcome many of the barriers to adoption such as capital-intensive upgrades of local infrastructure and a general inability to handle higher demand. As with many sustainability initiatives, however, a major investment is needed from fleets hoping to achieve the long-term value in a microgrid and EV fleet plan.

If you’re interested to learn more about the performance of your EV fleet and how our team is helping fleets optimize their operations, schedule a demo with us today.

Priscilla Valdez

Content Specialist

Priscilla Valdez is a content specialist at Utilimarc. She enjoys storytelling and sharing industry insights through writing that is compelling and dynamic. See more from Priscilla

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