The city is seeking funding from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to study the possibility of building a microgrid at the hydroelectric plant that sits at the bottom of the water falls at the Great Falls National Historical Park.
Paterson is seeking $200,000 for the study, according to municipal documents. The board of utilities approved the Town Center Distributed Energy Resource Microgrid Feasibility Study Incentive Program with a $1 million budget in January of this year to fund microgrid feasibility studies in various New Jersey municipalities.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres has been talking about creating a blackout free zone by building a microgrid, a small electric grid that’s useful in emergencies when the main grid experiences outage, at the Great Falls. In his first State of the City he said the greater Great Falls Historic District could be powered using the microgrid. This would include powering a renovated historic Hinchliffe Stadium.
Torres pitched his idea to governor Chris Christie’s cabinet last year at the Mayors’ Legislative Day in Trenton. He invited Richard Mroz, president of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to come and visit Paterson to see the state’s largest hydroelectric plant, the future site of the microgrid. It’s not clear whether Mroz ever visited the city.
The current hydroelectric plant generates 10,950-kilowatt of electricity for the Great Falls Hydro Electric Company, a subsidiary of Morristown-based Eagle Creek Renewable Energy. The plant is owned by the municipality after the city council dissolved the Paterson Municipal Utilities Authority in 2014.
Eagle Creek Renewable Energy has a contract to operate the plant until March 10th, 2021.
For Paterson, the firm Gabel Associates of Highland Park conducted a “preliminary feasibility assessment of the microgrid potential of the city” and recommended hiring New York City-based Burns Engineering as a primary consultant to conduct the feasibility study.
The engineering firm has worked on smart grid and microgrid projects at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Temple University, and New Jersey Transit, according to a statement of qualification submitted by the firm.