New Jersey TransitGrid – Microgrid Project to Help Power NJ Transit

The New Jersey Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) partnered to lead the design of NJ TransitGrid, an advanced electrical microgrid for the NJ Transit system in order to make the state’s transit infrastructure more resilient in the face of future extreme weather events and other disasters. NJ TransitGrid, which is being implemented also in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), will incorporate a natural gas-fired electric power generating plant as well as renewable energy and distributed generation. During emergencies and recovery periods, NJ TransitGrid will provide reliable power for the core portion of NJ Transit’s commuter system, as well as powering other functions like signals and electrical loads at certain stations.

The NJ Transit system, a critical transportation corridor and evacuation route from New York City, is currently dependent the centralized grid to operate. Previous storm events such as Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene caused significant transit system power losses, highlighting the criticality of energy for transit operations and recovery efforts. Energy is required to operate pump stations to remove floodwater, and to operate facilities and other key equipment necessary for restoring transit service after a storm. While conventional emergency generators can supply some of this power, they cannot be used to move trains, can only be operated continuously for limited periods of time, and also raise concerns with emissions and air quality. Extreme events like Hurricane Sandy brought attention to these challenges and the need for more resilient critical transportation and energy infrastructure to speed recovery efforts after disasters.  The NJ TransitGrid will supply reliable power needed during widespread power failures of the centralized grid, which will help keep critical transit facilities and rail lines, including evacuation routes, operating during disasters. During non-emergency periods, the microgrid will also help power normal operations.

DOE and Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) collaborated with NJ Transit and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to assess NJ Transit’s energy needs and develop the design concept for the microgrid system.  The design phase of the project utilized Sandia’s Energy Surety Design Methodology (ESDM), a risk assessment tool that helps communities evaluate regional energy needs and identify more resilient and cost-effective solutions.  ESDM involves using smart grid technology—computer automated systems that can direct power to critical end-uses during an outage. ESDM also integrates distributed energy resources—small-scale electric production, such as backup generators, wind and solar power, and energy storage—into the microgrid, to reduce dependence on the main grid.  Sandia has utilized ESDM to design advanced microgrids at a number of military bases around the country, and NJ TransitGrid represents the first civilian use of the ESDM tool.

NJ TransitGrid will include two separate projects: a Traction Power System and  a distributed generation system. The Traction Power System will include a new 100+ MW natural-gas-fired electric power generating plant, which will provide electricity to railroad tracks so that trains can operate on a critical portions of the NJ Transit system (along the Morris & Essex line and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail System) and part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.  It will also provide power to support non-traction functions, including the signal system on part of the NJ Transit Main Line (to allow diesel trains to operate during power outages), certain NJ Transit stations, and other signals, tunnel ventilation, pumping, and lighting systems. The new power plant will be sited close to two electrical substations that serve two of the targeted rail lines. The distributed generation system will be sited at specific facilities in the region, and will utilize renewable energy installations such as solar power, combined heat and power, and fuel cells. These distributed energy sources will be installed at key NJ Transit stations, maintenance facilities, bus garages, and other facilities, and will provide power to those facilities. NJ Transit will be able to use existing railroad rights-of-way to transmit power from generation sites to facilities and rail lines in the corridor serviced by the microgrid. 

The initial concept for NJ TransitGrid was first announced by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in Secaucus, NJ on August 26, 2013 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding to work together on developing the microgrid.  Secretary Moniz noted that NJ TransitGrid would be an important step towards fulfilling the goal from the President’s Climate Action Plan to make the nation’s infrastructure more resilient to environmental threats and severe weather events.  NJ TransitGrid will supplement several other ongoing post-Sandy efforts to strengthen New Jersey’s critical infrastructure. In November 2014, NJ Transit received funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to implement several post-Sandy resilience projects, including nearly $410 million to develop NJ TransitGrid. FTA awarded the grants using disaster recovery funding that it had allocated for competitive resilience projects in the Sandy-impacted areas.

NJ TransitGrid’s two projects – the Traction Power System and the distributed generation solutions – will be designed to operate separately, and will therefore go through separate scoping and environmental review. In January 2016, a Notice of Intent to develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Traction Power System was posted in the Federal Register, and concurrently NJ Transit and the FTA released a draft scoping document for the draft EIS to be developed.


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on January 29, 2016.


Publication Date: August 26, 2013

Related Organizations:

  • New Jersey (NJ) Transit
  • Department of Energy
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study

States Affected:


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