FutureStructure

Flood-Prone East Coast City Plans Microgrid to Keep Power on for the Vulnerable

Hoboken, N.J., is planning a microgrid, powered by natural gas and renewable energy, to help keep the power on for emergency responders and some citizens.

by / November 24, 2015
A woman stands next to a National Guard vehicle on a street in Hoboken, N.J., after Superstorm Sandy left much of the city underwater in 2012. Flickr/DVIDSHUB

Hoboken, N.J.’s minor flooding this week from a ruptured pipe is nothing compared with the inundation it experienced in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy left much of the city underwater and cut the power for two weeks.

The city sits right on the Hudson River and is particularly vulnerable to flooding. According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), 70 percent of Hoboken’s population lives in flood zones.

But now, it has a plan to more effectively manage its response to flooding and other disasters — whether they’re the magnitude of Sandy or not. Working with EDF’s Climate Corps program, Hoboken is working toward building an electrical “microgrid” designed to keep the power on at 55 buildings during disasters.

Those buildings include the city’s emergency response services like police and fire stations, as well as some of the most vulnerable residents: low-income and senior citizens.

“If these populations can ‘shelter in place’ instead of being evacuated, firefighters and police officers will be in a better position to deal with the storm,” EDF Climate Corps Manager Scott Wood wrote in an article for Smart Grid News.

The city hopes to begin installing the microgrid system in the summer of 2016. The system will include connecting natural gas generators and renewable energy to the 55 buildings, giving them their own power sources should the larger grid go offline. The system could be filled out with further renewable power generators so as to move closer to 100 percent clean energy in the future, according to the article.

A fellow with the corps also designed a toolkit for the city that includes a centralized dashboard where stakeholders can access and upload information such as energy efficiency, an adjustable timeline to let people know when different parts of the project will be underway, a scorecard allowing different cities to compare the benefits from microgrid projects and an online forum meant to connect people with experts who can provide guidance.

The idea is that microgrids could have a positive impact on many more cities than Hoboken.

“In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 39 percent of the U.S. population lives along the coast, so this toolkit has relevance to other communities,” Wood wrote in the article.