TRENTON, NJ – The Community Microgrids Planning Academy, an online educational platform funded by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) with Superstorm Sandy recovery dollars, has been nationally recognized for its contributions to disaster resilience and sustainability.
Developed by the Center for Resilient Design at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the Community Microgrids Planning Academy received a 2018 Beyond Green™ Award of Merit from the National Institute of Building Sciences in the High-Performance Buildings and Communities category. The Planning Academy, which is a free platform available at www.microgrids.io, is designed to help local government officials and stakeholders understand microgrids and walk them through how to plan for and ultimately develop microgrids in their communities.
“Microgrids are a hot topic in municipalities across the state because they can significantly improve a community’s resilience to disasters such as powerful storms,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner. “With interest in microgrids at an all-time high, local leaders are looking for information, guidance, and training they can trust. Thanks to a DCA grant, the Community Microgrids Planning Academy was created to meet this need and help local officials determine if microgrids are the right fit for their towns.”
DCA awarded a $400,000 grant to NJIT through the Statewide and Regional Planning Assistance Grant Program, which is funded with Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) dollars the federal government allocated to New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy to assist with recovery and resiliency. Aside from NJIT, DCA awarded grants to Rowan University and the University of Notre Dame/University of Buffalo to fund applied research projects directed at disaster resiliency.
A microgrid is a localized power grid that serves a small network of electricity users – typically buildings – within a clearly defined geographical area. Power is generated from distributed energy sources (such as combined heat and power systems or renewable energy) located within the defined geographical area. A microgrid is 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 emergencies or disasters that result in power disruptions.
“Microgrids encourage people to look at buildings in a new way – as mini electricity-generating stations that can keep essential services like hospitals, water utilities, and sewage treatment plants up and running during and after disasters,” said Deane Evans, FAIA, executive director of the Center for Building Knowledge at NJIT. “We at NJIT are thankful for DCA’s support in helping us educate local decisionmakers about the many cost and efficiency benefits that microgrids can bring to their communities.”
NJIT developed the Community Microgrids Planning Academy in cooperation with Greener by Design, LLC and the Regional Plan Association. The Planning Academy provides information through voiceover PowerPoint lessons, webinars, podcasts, and educational text and is organized into a five-section sequence that covers the:
- Basics of what microgrids are and how they work;
- Development process of all the steps necessary to develop, build, and operate a microgrid;
- Planning needed to create a successful microgrid development plan;
- Tutorials that feature experts in specific microgrid topic areas; and
- Resources such as curated lists of publications and websites that provide additional information on microgrids.
NJIT will continue to update the Community Microgrids Planning Academy with additional tutorials and resources as the microgrid industry, state policies, state programs and technology evolve.
“Through the grant, DCA is doing its part to help New Jersey remain a national leader in supporting community microgrids,” said Lt. Governor Oliver. “After experiencing Sandy and witnessing the destruction caused by subsequent disasters in other parts of the country, we understand how critically important microgrids can be.”
Established in 1967, DCA offers a wide range of programs and services that respond to issues of public concern including affordable housing production, fire and building safety, community planning and development, local government management and finance, and disaster recovery. For more information about DCA, visit https://nj.gov/dca/.