“Microgrid” Eyed to Improve NJT Power

NJ Transit will partner with the US Department of Energy to study the design a new kind of “electrical microgrid” to make the railroad’s electrical power and control systems more resilient.  NJ Governor Christie characterized the effort as part of the program to make NJ Transit less vulnerable to events such as Hurricane Sandy, which crippled the transit system in October, 2012.  According to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (August 27), Christie and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the program in a press conference at the Secaucus Transfer train station on August 26.  Moniz also stressed the vulnerability of New Jersey to rising sea levels.

It was not immediately clear just which NJT power systems would be covered by the new “microgrid,” dubbed “NJ Transitgrid”; reports suggested that parts of the railroad’s electric traction system, rail yards, and key passenger stations would be covered by the plan.  Reportedly, the speakers stressed the key position of NJT train operations within the Northeast Corridor and the potential effect on NJT power failures on the entire Northeast; however, most of the NJT facilities in the Northeast Corridor are actually operated by Amtrak, and there was no mention of Amtrak participation in the study or program.

The Lackawanna Coalition believes that improvements in the electric traction system used by NJT is critical to long-term service reliability; however, the most vulnerable areas are in the Amtrak power systems, which should be the main focus of any improvements of the power systems.