Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is seeking to build a microgrid at the Great Falls to create a blackout free zone in the Silk City.
Torres pitched the idea to the president of the state’s board of public utilities Richard Mroz at the Mayors’ Legislative Day in Trenton earlier in the month.
“We want to make the Great Falls and the power it unleashes every hour, every day the centerpiece of a state of the art microgrid that can bring clean, renewable and reliable power to our city and our state,” Torres said at the annual event hosted by the New Jersey League of Municipalities which allows mayors to directly address governor Chris Christie’s cabinet members.
Torres wants the president to come out to the Great Falls National Park to potentially undertake a pilot project at the location. The Great Falls has a hydroelectric power plant at the base of the water fall which generates 10,950-kilowatt.
The plant is presently operated by The Great Falls Hydro Electric Company. The city took over ownership of the power plant from the defunct Municipal Utilities Authority in 2014. The company has a contract, which expires on March 10th, 2021, to operate the hydroelectric plan, according to city records.
Torres in his first state of the city address since returning to the mayor’s seat for a new term said the microgrid would power the greater Great Falls Historic District. He has said the grid would also power a renovated Hinchliffe Stadium.
Mroz accepted Torres’ invitation to visit the city to assess the viability of a micrgrid at the Great Falls. Governor Chris Christie’s administration’s energy master plan is supportive of developing distributed energy resources like microgrids, according to the board.
John Reinert, spokesman for the state’s board of public utilities, said the state encourages microgrids. In fact, microgrids have become a way to keep the lights on in power outages during storms. Hoboken is pursuing a microgrid project to safeguard against power outages in storm emergencies.
Microgrids are localized electrical grids that can disconnect from the traditional grid to operate autonomously and help mitigate grid disturbances to strengthen grid resilience, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Hudson County municipality was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Reinert said the board of utilities provides technical support, interfaces with the electric distribution company within whose territory the project is located, and considers any needed tariff revisions.
The microgrid and the hydroelectric plant inside the national park will also present an opportunity to showcase the Silk City’s hydroelectric power history, according to Torres. The state’s largest hydroelectric power plant is in Paterson, according to the mayor.
“There have not yet been detailed conversations about the prospective project,” said Reinert. A detailed conversation is likely to happen when Mroz visits the city. It’s not clear when the president may visit the city to look at the hydroelectric plant.
Torres did not return a call seeking his comments for this story.