How giant batteries are protecting the most vulnerable in blackouts

PSE&G installed solar panels at a wastewater treatment plant in Caldwell, New Jersey, as well as a very large battery. The solar panels generate electricity for the local grid, but in the event of a storm, they help keep the plant running by supplying the plant during the day and helping to charge large batteries that can provide electricity when the sun goes down.

Between the battery and the backup generator, the wastewater plant can run for several weeks on its own, Powers says. The utility has installed similar projects at other key locations, like a hospital in Camden, New Jersey and at a high school, which can serve as a warming or cooling center for the larger community in extreme weather.

In the course of rebuilding the grid after Sandy, New Jersey spent $200 million on installing energy systems at critical facilities and looked at how microgrids can play a larger role.

“Assume dramatic things are going to happen,” says Joe Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. “We are certainly experiencing climate change. The storms are not going to get any gentler, so we have to work and prepare as best we can for that.”