Jennifer Runyon, Managing Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
November 20, 2012 | 14 Comments
As Sandy ravaged parts of North America three weeks ago, hundreds of power generation assets were threatened. According to SNL Energy, there were 731 operating power plants of 10 MW or larger in the path of the storm. Among these facilities were 20 nuclear plants, 80 coal-fired plants, 237 gas-fired plants and 394 plants of various other fuel types, including hydropower, solar, biomass and wind power plants.
Solar System Backs Up Generator, Keeps Power On in Face of Sandy’s Fury
When Sandy slammed into Bayonne, NJ, a one-of-a-kind solar electric system developed by Advanced Solar Products of Flemington, NJ helped keep the power on at Midtown Community School, where 50 to 75 residents of this historic Hudson Riverfront city spent the night sleeping on cots in the warm, dry and well-lit community room.
Power from the grid was lost to all of Bayonne, including Midtown Community School (left), which also serves as a community emergency evacuation center, at about 9:00 on the evening of October 29. The lights at the school stayed on, however, because of its backup system. The large commercial-scale solar system, at the time part of the largest solar power project on the east coast, was designed and built with assistance from Advanced Solar Products (ASP) and installed in 2004.
(Image, 272 kW array at Midtown, photo courtesy PowerLight Corp.)
The 272-kW PV array was designed to operate in conjunction with an uninterruptible power supply. The one at the school is a diesel generator according to Lyle Rawlings who has served as president of ASP since 1991. The generator is large enough to meet the electricity needs of the school during a power failure, but uses huge quantities of diesel fuel, which must be delivered by truck if supplies can be located at all during and after an emergency such as Sandy.
“Without our solar system on the roof of the school, we would have needed even more fuel, which would have been difficult to find because it was needed for all the repair trucks operating around the state,” said Rawlings.
In order to provide this capability, the school's solar power system was specially modified with new controls, sensors and innovative software to enable it to automatically detect a power outage. When it does, it immediately shifts its output from circuitry powering the school’s ordinary heating, cooling and lighting systems to the building's emergency circuits. “Storms such as Sandy will become more frequent if we do not stem greenhouse gas induced climate change,” says Rawlings. “Widespread adoption of solar power is an economically beneficial way to reduce greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.”
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