Military microgrids to the rescue in California and New Mexico

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The US Army, Navy and Marine Corps have made big microgrid commitments in recent months. In February, the Army announced it would build a microgrid at each of its bases worldwide by 2035. In May, the Navy and Marine Corps made similar commitments.

So it’s not surprising that military microgrid projects are making the news. In San Diego, there was a real world demonstration of how military microgrids can support the communities outside of a base during a time of crisis. And in New Mexico, HSGS-Ameresco announced plans for a new microgrid to improve the energy reliability at a large military test facility.

MCAS Miramar to the rescue

NAVFAC Southwest ran the MCAS Miramar microgrid power plant to help SDG&E avoid a power emergency. Photo by Mario Icari

On Aug. 17, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar and Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Southwest ran the base’s microgrid power plant to help California utility San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) avoid a power emergency. At the utility’s request, NAVFAC Southwest operated the microgrid for five hours, allowing SDG&E to provide continuous power to 300,000 homes in the San Diego area during a time of high grid demand.

This real world demonstration of how the base’s microgrid can support the community in an emergency was “a huge win for the combined California Public Utility Commission, SDG&E, MCAS Miramar and NAVFAC Southwest team,” said Commander Jon Angle, MCAS Miramar’s public works officer.

The MCAS Miramar microgrid is based on 50% renewable energy and includes Tier 4 clean burning diesel generators, which means the base supported the community with cleaner burning generation than what the grid would typically provide.

A unique and innovative agreement

MCAS Miramar and NAVFAC Southwest responded to a statewide flex alert as part of the Miramar Summer Generation Incentive, an agreement the base and NAVFAC Southwest have with the California Public Utilities Commission and SDG&E to provide generation support. Enacted in the summer of 2021, this was the first time the agreement has been used.

Commander Angle said of the agreement, “This is a first-of-a-kind and one of the most innovative things we have done.” In exchange for its support, SDG&E will issue energy credits to MCAS Miramar.

Mick Wasco, energy manager for the San Diego air station, is credited with the idea of using the base’s microgrid to support the utility and the wider grid before it experiences an emergency. He shared his experience developing the microgrid in a video panel discussion featured on Microgrid Knowledge.

White Sands Missile Range to get new microgrid

Also announced last week, HSGS-Ameresco was awarded a contract to install a microgrid at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. The microgrid will include a 700-kW solar photovoltaic array, a 500-kW natural gas generator and a 500-kW energy storage system.

Dave McNeil, president and CEO of HSGS-Ameresco said, “This diverse solution set will strengthen the base’s energy and water resilience, so that it is no longer dependent on a single source of power.”

The microgrid is designed to provide 14 days of power for potable water wells, the Army Research Lab, Material Test Directorate and the fire department at what is the Department of Defense’s largest open-air military test facility.

Construction on the microgrid will start later this year and is expected to be completed in late 2023.

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New Mexico contract awarded to veteran owned business

HSGS-Ameresco, the joint venture company awarded the WSMR contract, is a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. As part of the project, HSGS-Ameresco will install cybersecurity, anti-terrorism and physical security measures for the microgrid.

Learn more about the military’s microgrid commitments. Subscribe to the free Microgrid Knowledge Newsletter

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