Mobile substations: Yes, they exist — and are interesting part of JCP&L’s EnergizeNJ proposal

Mobile substations. They are the type of thing Jersey Central Power & Light hopes it never has to use — but, when it does, few items have greater impact.

Part of the company’s recently proposed EnergizeNJ plan is the ability to purchase more mobile substations that provide life-changing relief during the toughest times.

Why? Because, when a utility has a major problem at a substation — it loses a transformer or a big piece of equipment, items that can take days, if not weeks to fix — a mobile substation can step in, JCP&L President Jim Fakult said.

The company, which has a small fleet now, aims to add more, he said.

Service area

Jersey Central Power & Light serves 1.1 million customers in parts of 13 counties: Burlington, Essex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren.

The substations can be moved on a big tractor-trailer — usually getting to a location and being properly hooked up in 16-18 hours, Fakult said.

“They give us the ability to pick up customer load when we have a failure,” he said.

In essence, all of the major substation components — including transformers, switches, breakers, etc. — are arranged on a flatbed trailer. Once it gets to the substation, it is wired in to replace whatever requires maintenance or repair.

Fakult mentioned a time last summer in northern New Jersey when a substation enabled approximately 1,000 customers to get online quickly — rather than wait days.

They can play a role at other times — serving as temporary help if a new project is coming online and the company is waiting on an order.

“Sometimes, it takes quite a bit of time to order and secure a transformer,” he said. “The ability to use a mobile substation and serve that load temporarily helps us meet customer demand.”

The EnergizeNJ plan, proposed in November, will get a look from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, organizations that support ratepayers and customers themselves in the coming months. JCP&L said all of the upgrades (see more details here) will cost consumers an additional $4.16 a month — costs that will be added over the five-year project as upgrades are made.

As is always the case with such proposals, Fakult said JCP&L will do outreach to its communities, pitching its benefits, and hold public hearings throughout north and central New Jersey (JCP&L serves 1.1 million customers in 13 counties — from Burlington to Essex to Sussex).

JCP&L may talk mainly about the many items that will help with reliability and resiliency while it works to further modernize the grid, so it is able to handle the energy needs of the future. The company, however, will be eager to talk about how mobile substations can help in the present.

“They are really critical in an emergency,” he said.