Camden City Microgrid

The Camden County Microgrid will include diverse electricity generation assets, including solar, battery storage, natural gas and, eventually, it is hoped, biomass (renewable natural gas), with these assets developed over phases. The clean, cheaper and resilient power that the microgrid will offer will better prepare Camden for future emergencies and prove attractive to new businesses with power quality needs, stimulating economic growth and jobs.


Camden City Microgrid Project Town Hall, June 30, 2020

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Questions from Town Hall Meeting / FAQ

What is a Microgrid?
The Microgrid is a set of underground infrastructure that runs electric, water and communication in a region/area (see map) that connects various energy users with energy producers at the local level.  It does NOT offer any ability for Covanta to extend its permits, life, garbage flow or size.  

Who / What will be powered by the Microgrid?
The Microgrid will initially be run to the CCMUA to support critical support.  During the 2
nd phase, the MG will connect multiple schools, supermarkets, community centers and other assets within the study area.  Additional buildings can be supported as the community sees a need.

Does Covanta own the Microgrid?
Covanta does not own the grid and it does NOT offer any ability for Covanta to extend its permits, life, garbage flow or size.  

Why Camden?
The State of New Jersey is looking at hardening power supply and communications infrastructure for 12 communities throughout the State.  The application and regulations for being included in the study require that net environmental improvements be made as part of any successful bid.  The Camden Microgrid in no way, shape or form increases emissions or trash burning at Covanta.  It simply takes existing electricity that flows to the PJM power grid and gives Camden the option to use that power locally during times of power outage as what happened the other day.   The Microgrid will bring Camden a robust, underground, hardened electrical and communications system that will bring added resiliency to area being studied.  

How will residents benefit?
The residents of the area will benefit from the Microgrid providing backup power and communications to CCMUA initially and other community assets. This will mean hardened assets so during times of power outage there is no sewer discharges and it will mean that facilities such as schools and community centers will have power for shelter.  As the Microgrid grows, it will mean overall less expensive electricity to the portion of the City where it is located by helping to eliminate peak power costs in the area.  

Does NJ have other Micrgrids?
There are active Microgrids all over the United States and several examples here in New Jersey.  The burying of infrastructure and hardening is happening all over the State and communities like Princeton, Woodbridge, Hoboken, Neptune, Trenton, Atlantic City and others have all taken part in studies that have led to the feasibility studies that are available on line.  

Will this plan have the potential to further industrialize the Waterfront South neighborhood?
The Microgrid we are looking at is called an Advanced Microgrid, different from a typical industrial campus or heavy power user microgrid that is really just an engine that can ‘island’ from the grid.  The idea is to right size the Camden MG for backup power and power quality as opposed to power size.   Increased power quality is very critical to data centers, high tech, campus, indoor agriculture and other energy users who require very specific power quality and backup (N plus 1) needs.

How will the Microgrid help Wifi in the area?
The Microgrid will have broadband (5 G today) that will run parallel to the power system.  This will be able to connect 5G into the neighborhood and it will mean that the communications system will stay up when power goes down.  As the Microgrid expands to schools and community centers, it will provide opportunity for much more robust data that today’s schools require as classes go more online and on tablets.  

How will the Microgrid affect people with asthma?
To be clear the Microgrid has nothing to do with emissions from Covanta.  The Microgrid is underground infrastructure that will connect various power users with various power sources, which Covanta is one.  If Covanta should close, the underground infrastructure would allow the Microgrid to connect to a variety of other sources of power. 

What Powers the Microgrid ?
The Microgrid will be connected to several power sources including the CCMUA solar system, an existing co-gen system, Covanta and other power sources in the future.  If Covanta should close then alternative power sources can be used to power the system.  The Microgrid will take 2 MW of power that Covanta would otherwise be selling to the grid and use it to power CCMUA during times of power outage.  The Microgrid is NOT dependent on Covanta but rather is taking advantage of an existing power supply that can easily be replaced

Will this project reduce the cost of electricity?
The project will reduce the cost of electricity for residents as the impact of the Microgrid grows.  

When will the Microgrid project phase out using incinerator power and go fully green?
Is there a plan in place to do so? – Part of the next phase is to look at the potential evolution of the Microgrid including more renewables and storage as the infrastructure makes it possible and cost effective.  It will include alternatives analysis that will look at Covanta phasing out over time. 

How do you ensure that cost savings to industry does not attract additional polluting industry to the neighborhood?
Can you enact cumulative impact measures? The Governor and legislature are looking at enacting cumulative impact requirements for certain overburdened communities in New Jersey.  The County of Camden and the City of Camden do not have the legal authority to authorize air permits or require any regulations beyond what the State and Federal regulatory agencies (DEP, EPA) allow. 

Has wind been considered?
Wind and other technologies were looked at and continue to be looked at as part of the study.  Today, wind and storage are cost prohibitive for this type of microgrid due to lack of infrastructure and load profile.  However, once the electric and communications infrastructure are in place, new opportunities for green technologies will be incorporated into the microgrid. The microgrid study looked at energy efficiency, renewables, technology and a host of other factors in developing the initial study.  Included in these best practices was many University and National Science Lab material related to distributed generation. The MG can be a demonstration for education and business attraction and can help to bring technology together with the community.  

Will the Microgrid limit the burning of trash, if at all?
The Microgrid does not influence the burning of trash in anyway.  The Microgrid’s underground infrastructure helps to connect various critical power users (CCMUA) with various power sources including renewables.   It will have no impact on the Covanta process.