District Energy / Winter 2019 69 © 2019 International District Energy Association. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ity, also remained operational and ready to
supply power to approximately 5 million
sq ft of nonresidential space had the city
of Markham called a state of emergency. 4
Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on
the Eastern Seaboard of North America in
late October 2012. The storm surge that
accompanied Sandy’s Oct. 29 U.S. landfall flooded subway tunnels and streets
in New York and New Jersey. Sandy killed
an estimated 233 by the time it finally
tapered out, including 160 in the United
States and one in Canada. 5 In New Jersey,
the site of Sandy’s continental landfall,
more than 2 million people were without
power for several days. Sandy caused an
estimated $65 billion in damages to the
U.S. (including lost business), making it
the second-costliest weather disaster in
American history. 6
Located near the heart of the drama,
KE Y PART OF THE SOLUTION
Princeton University utilizes a 15 MW
microgrid, powered by a gas turbine gen-
erator and solar panel field. More impor-
tantly, it is able to disconnect from the
main grid and generate its own electricity
– crucial in times of a crisis like Hurricane
Sandy. While New Jersey went dark, the
facility at Princeton University remained
able to produce heat and electricity for
12,000 people for a day and a half. Princ-
eton was also able to serve as a staging
area for emergency service workers like
police and firefighters and as a warming
center for residents in the area not con-
nected to Princeton’s microgrid. 7
Northeast of Princeton University,
New York City was also heavily hit by
Sandy. More than 1 million people lost
power, the subway was flooded, and a fire
caused by the floodwaters coming into
contact with electrical wires destroyed
more than 100 homes in Breezy Point. 8
Co-Op City to the north, however, fared
quite a bit better. Known as the “city
within a city,” Co-Op City is a 330-acre
housing cooperative located in the Bronx.
A 40 MW combined heat and power
plant9 (at the time consisting of two natu-
ral gas-fired turbines, two steam genera-
tors, a steam turbine and an auxiliary
boiler10) supports approximately 60,000
residents, as well as businesses and an
educational park. This plant not only kept
the lights on but also helped the local
utility, Con Ed, restart and return power to
the rest of the community. 11
Time and time again district energy
has demonstrated its ability to withstand
extreme weather and other phenomena.
Coupled with the opportunity to connect
these systems to carbon-efficient power
generation technologies, district energy
can play a key part of the solution to the
concerns brought up in the National Cli-
mate Assessment. By encouraging munici-
palities and campuses to investigate dis-
trict energy in their communities now, we
can ensure the well-being of many in the
Emma Jones is the
and marketing coordi-
nator of FVB Energy Inc.,
a consulting company
specializing in district
energy and CHP busi-
ness development, engineering and mar-
keting, with offices in Toronto, Edmonton,
Vancouver and Ottawa in Canada; Minne-
apolis and Seattle in the U.S.; and various
cities in Sweden. She holds an Honours
Bachelor of Science degree from the Uni-
versity of Toronto and a Bilingual Honours
Bachelor of Arts from Glendon College of
York University. Jones may be reached at
¹ U.S. Global Change Research Program, Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States ( https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/).
2 “Ice storm makes Christmas a dark day for tens of thousands,” CBC News, Dec. 26, 2013 ( https://tinyurl.com/ycpfwach).
³ “The Perfect Storm,” Sustainable Business Magazine, May 2016, pp. 3-9 ( https://tinyurl.com/yc6k7p5g).
⁴ Chu, Terri, et al, “The Importance of District Energy in Building Resilient Cities,” Chapter 10 from Canada: Becoming a Sustainable Energy Powerhouse, Preprint edition,
Canadian Academy of Engineering, eds., Drs. Clem Bowman and Richard Marceau, pp. 169-186 ( https://tinyurl.com/ycvt).
⁵ Diakakis, M., et al. "Hurricane Sandy mortality in the Caribbean and continental North America," Disaster Prevention and Management: an International Journal, 24 ( 1):132,
⁶ "Is Sandy the second-most destructive U. S. hurricane ever? Or not even top 10?" The Washington Post, retrieved Nov. 5, 2018.
⁷ Kelly, Morgan, “Two years after Hurricane Sandy, recognition of Princeton’s micrgroid still surges,” Princeton University ( https://tinyurl.com/y92ggcqa).
⁸ “Cause of Breezy Point Fire During Sandy Determined: City Fire Marshals say that rising sea water came in contact with electrical wires,” WNBC News, Dec. 24, 2012
⁹ Pentland, William, “Lessons From Where the Lights Stayed on During Hurricane Sandy,” Forbes, Oct. 31, 2012 ( https://tinyurl.com/ybxov3sq).
¹⁰ Alliance to Save Energy, “CHP Kept Schools, Hospitals Running Amid Hurricane Sandy,” Dec. 11, 2012 ( https://tinyurl.com/yda2cvnw).
¹¹ Environmental and Energy Study Institute, “District Energy, CHP, Microgrids: Resilient, Efficient Energy Infrastructure,” Dec. 6, 2016 ( https://tinyurl.com/y87klwx3).