NJ Transit eyes green alternative to Meadowlands power plant

Daniel J. Munoz//October 22, 2020

NJ Transit eyes green alternative to Meadowlands power plant

Daniel J. Munoz//October 22, 2020

New Jersey Transit is pushing ahead with plans to develop a $577 million microgrid, known as the Transitgrid, meant to use renewable technology to provide back-up power to the statewide transportation agency.

The move on Wednesday night drew the praise of environmentalists after NJ Transit scrapped plans last year for a controversial 140-megawatt natural gas power plant at the Meadowlands.

That original power plant would have been built on 48 acres along the Hackensack River in Kearny, and was projected to emit upward of 571,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Before the plan was scuttled, NJ Transit officials contended the plant was vital to building up the agency’s resiliency after electricity was knocked out across the system when Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012.

New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti

“We heard the public comments loud and clear and recognize as we move forward there is a need for NJ Transit to focus on the environment and it should be transparent,” Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who serves as NJ Transit’s board chair, said at a Wednesday evening board meeting.

Nonetheless, officials contend, a back-up source of electricity is vital, leading to the proposed, environmentally friendly Transitgrid. In the event of a power outage, it would provide electricity to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, parts of NJ Transit’s Morris and Essex Lines, and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.

A sizable chunk of funding – $409 million – is coming from federal Superstorm Sandy resilience funds, NJ Transit said.

State officials plan to award a construction contract in December 2022.

On Wednesday, the board approved a $3 million stipend meant to incentivize companies with expertise in green technology and renewable energy to come up with ideas. Outreach will start later this month, NJ Transit said, followed by a Request for Qualifications that will be advertised on Nov. 25, which calls for awards of up to $1 million for eligible submissions of the design and construction proposals.

The Request for Proposals will go out in December 2021 to up to four companies, and a year after that the contract will be awarded.

New Jersey Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett.

“We will be incentivizing the national and international developer community to come up with the most innovative designs that will allow us to maximize the use of renewable energy for this project,” NJ Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Corbett said in a Wednesday statement.

The Wednesday move was widely hailed by environmentalists who lobbied against the proposed natural gas power plant.

“New Jersey can be a national leader on using renewable energy battery storage to run its transit system,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a Wednesday evening statement. “This is cutting edge technology that would make the state a leader in green transportation.”