Montclair State is the first university in New Jersey with an innovative microgrid that can generate its own power if necessary, basically guaranteeing that the lights will never go out while also saving nearly $4 million a year in energy costs.
The microgrid follows years of enhancing the University’s energy infrastructure. After Hurricane Sandy and the resulting power grid outages, University officials realized the need to become more power-independent.
So with the longterm in mind, the University built the Combined Heating, Cooling and Power (CHCP) plant in 2013, increasing efficiency and dramatically reducing the University’s carbon footprint.
Then, in May 2016, a series of unfortunate events left the University in the dark, forcing the postponement of final exams: First, while the gas turbine at the CHCP was offline for annual maintenance, a car struck a power pole near the University, taking down one of two electricity feeders from PSEG to the campus. Next, a large turkey vulture sitting on a power line spread its wings, bridging two lines causing the fuses to blow and taking out the second feeder (and the turkey vulture).
That’s when Vice President for University Facilities Shawn Connolly developed the plan to create a campus-wide microgrid that would be local, independent and automated – able to isolate itself from the regional electric grid, essentially “islanding” the entire campus from the vulnerabilities of the public grid.
“Montclair State’s microgrid is an excellent use of innovative technology to help the University manage their energy use more efficiently,” says Dave Daly, PSE&G president and COO. “Their system integrates seamlessly with PSE&G’s electric grid and is a positive step toward a more cost-effective energy future.”
According to Connolly: “It definitely helped to have a collaborative energy partner” in PSEG. The University’s partnership with the utility also includes support for the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, which conducts transdisciplinary research in climate change, energy studies and community resilience.