Transforming Buildings Into Distributed Energy Power Plants To Improve Community Resilience
Initiative Name: Community Microgrids Planning Academy: Transforming Buildings into Distributed Energy Power Plants to Improve Community Resilience
Primary Contact: Deane Evans
Executive Director, Center for Building Knowledge & Center for Resilient Design
New Jersey Institute of Technology
323 MLK Blvd.
Newark, New Jersey 07102
centers.njit.edu/cbk/ | centers.njit.edu/cfrd/
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, funded a series of initiatives to help communities throughout the state increase their capacity to respond to and recover from hazardous events like Super Storm Sandy. Under the program, the NJIT Center for Resilient Design received a grant to create an online educational program—the Community Microgrids Planning Academy—to help New Jersey mayors and their staffs understand and begin to develop community microgrids in their jurisdictions.
A microgrid is a localized power grid that serves a small network of electricity users—typically buildings—within a small, clearly defined geographical area. Power is generated from distributed energy sources (such as combined heat and power systems or renewable energy) located at the building sites—turning the facilities within the network into mini-power plants. The whole network is also designed to easily connect to or disconnect from the larger electrical grid so that it can operate in "grid-connected" mode during normal conditions or in "island" mode during power disruptions.
Using networked buildings to power resilient community microgrids is a new, but rapidly growing trend across the country. The Community Microgrids Planning Academy will help communities join this trend and, in the process, help move buildings in these communities Beyond Green in an innovative new way.
Initiative Type: Educational Initiative + Community Resilience and Hazard Mitigation Planning and Implementation
Sponsoring / Supporting Organizations: US Department of Housing and Urban Development and New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
Geographic Reach: Statewide and National
Initiative Start Date: June 30, 2018
Initiative End Date: Ongoing
Whole Building Design Objectives
Sustainable: By linking buildings that generate more power than they can use into a network that can serve other critical facilities (like fire and police stations) microgrids contribute directly to the stability and sustainability of the communities where they are located. And, because the power they generate comes from environmentally responsible sources such as renewables and cogeneration, they are helping each community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Safe and Secure: Community microgrids are specifically designed to easily connect to or disconnect from the larger electrical grid so that they can operate in "grid-connected" mode during normal conditions or in "island" mode during power disruptions. As a consequence, microgrids can significantly increase the capacity of the citizens in that community to resist and recover from such hazards by providing areas of refuge and by ensuring that critical facilities remain operational throughout a power outage.
Productive/Healthy:Community microgrids typically include critical facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, police, and fire departments in their networks of buildings. By remaining fully operational and functional in the face of power outages, the occupants of these facilities can remain productive (in the case of fire and police department personnel) and healthy (in the case of hospital patients and nursing home residents).
Cost-Effective: Community microgrids are designed to both save communities money during "blue sky" conditions—by providing power at prices equal to or less than the equivalent power provided by the local utility—and avoid monetary losses during "dark sky" conditions (by remaining operational and continuing to provide services and/or generate revenue). For a community microgrid project to be economically feasible, it must be cost-effective.
The Community Microgrids Planning Academy is targeted to municipal decision-makers across the country and is purposely designed to:
- Explain and demystify what community microgrids are;
- Describe their potential economic and resilience benefits;
- Delineate the series of steps needed to develop, implement, and manage a microgrid; and
- Prepare municipal officials to more effectively engage with the growing level of microgrid development activity across the state and the country.
The core goal of the Academy is to empower municipal officials to explore the potential for developing community microgrids in their jurisdictions and, ultimately, to determine whether and/or how to move forward with this promising new strategy for enhancing cost-effective community resilience.
Transferability and Marketability
This Community Microgrids Planning Academy was developed in partnership with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and has both a local and a national focus. The initial target audience is mayors and their staffs in the State of New Jersey, but the core content is structured and delivered in a way that is:
- understandable to non-technical stakeholders;
- grounded in the realities of municipal governance procedures and protocols; and
- realistic in its depiction of the opportunities and the risks of these new and evolving energy systems.
As a consequence, the bulk of the information in the Academy is readily transferable to municipal jurisdictions across the US. And, because the Academy is a web-based educational tool, this information can be accessed by municipal officials anytime, from anywhere.
Energy and Environment
Community microgrids are powered by environmentally responsible distributed energy resources—primarily cogeneration and renewable energy systems—and, as a consequence, are strong contributors to local energy performance and strong drivers of local use of renewable energy resources.
Community microgrids are specifically designed to operate in "dark sky" mode (during power outages) and to keep critical facilities in operation 24/7 until utility power is restored. As such, microgrids contribute directly to resilience in the face of natural and/or manmade disasters, allowing key facilities and services to function and provide support to the rest of a community that may be without power.
The key goal for the Community Microgrids Planning Academy was to create an online resource for municipal decision-makers that introduces the benefits of—and potential for—community microgrids in their jurisdictions. This core goal was met successfully and resulted in a comprehensive online educational resource organized into five separate, but interrelated sections:
- Microgrid Basics
- Microgrid Development Overview
- Microgrid Planning
- Tutorial Library
Collectively, the five sections provide a unique and actionable introduction to the benefits of—and potential for—community microgrids targeted to municipal decision-makers across the US.
Synergies that resulted from the design objectives addressed in the initiative.
The Academy was developed in parallel with a statewide initiative to develop technical feasibility studies for 13 community microgrid projects across New Jersey. Lessons learned from these studies directly informed the content of the Academy, helping to ground it in the "real-world" opportunities and obstacles that surround microgrid development projects and providing "living laboratory" case studies that were highlighted in the Academy's core sections. These synergies were fully exploited in the development of the Academy.
- SBIC Beyond Green™ Award of Merit in the Innovations for High-Performance Buildings and Communities Category, 2018.
- The Community Microgrids Planning Academy (www.microgrids.io) is complete and was formally launched at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Annual Conference on November 14, 2018. Thereafter it will be available to mayors' offices and other interested stakeholders within New Jersey and across the country as a means to learn more about the benefits of community microgrids and key strategies for developing them.