Lisa Cohn, Microgrid Knowledge
You know you’ve done something right when your new campus microgrid islands so seamlessly that you don’t even know it happened.
That’s what occurred in February, in response to a communications glitch, at Montclair State University (MSU), the second largest university in New Jersey with 23,000 students.
MSU’s system includes a 5.4-MW natural-gas fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant, plus 5.3 MW of natural gas backup. It receives communications about the local utility’s status through phone lines.
But Public Service Gas & Electric’s (PSG&E) phone lines went down on a cold day when the campus was full of students, only a little more than a month after the microgrid started up in January.
When the phones went out, and the microgrid controls couldn’t “see” that utility power was available, the microgrid “divorced” from the utility automatically — even though the utility hadn’t lost power — and went into island mode, serving the entire campus for nine hours, said Shawn Connolly, vice president for university facilities..
“No one knew we were in island mode, until my phone told me. That was the first time I ever got that message for a real situation,” he said. When the MSU microgrid re-connected with the utility, there were no burps, interruptions or surprises, he said.
But the campus microgrid
— developed by MSU in partnership with NJ-based DCO Energy — does much more than disconnect the entire MSU campus from the grid almost invisibly.