Contract Awarded to Build First of Six Demonstration Microgrids at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam

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Following the award of an $8.3 million grant, Burns & McDonnell plans to begin the first in a series of six military microgrids to support a multi-year initiative being carried out by Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH).

microgrid on wheels

By PRESSLAB/Shutterstock.com

The funds came from the Hawai’i Technology Development Corporation.

Energy resiliency is critical to making sure our installations have access to the power they need for flight simulators, alert facilities, and other mission critical systems that sustain readiness,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. “The Department of Defense’s investment in a microgrid test-bed in Hawaii will pay dividends by proving that alternative energy and microgrid technologies can support the military’s broader energy security and resilience goals.” 

Plugging in a variety of renewable energy assets

The project is being undertaken by the JBPHH Air Force Research Laboratory’s Pacific Energy Assurance and Renewable Laboratory (PEARL).

PEARL will make use of a variety of on-site, renewable energy, storage and distribution technologies to design, build and operate the microgrid demonstration project. These include solar PV, wind, hydrogen and battery-based energy storage.

Hawai’i Air National Guard’s 154th Wing wants to ensure that it can carry out critical missions during natural or man-made disasters that take down the utility grid. The project also must also demonstrate the reliability, scalability and versatility of renewable energy, explained Mike McCartney, director of the Hawai’i Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

PEARL is designed to serve as an R&D platform, as well as enhance mission resiliency at the Hawaii Air National Guard, project manager David Molinaro told Microgrid Knowledge.

“This initial microgrid utilizes extensive PV currently at the 154th Wing campus and will be the backbone for the other proposed grids. We’ll incorporate a new generator and battery energy storage system on a cyber-secure SCADA system,” Molinaro said in an interview.

Furthermore, the 154th Wing’s leadership will be able to reallocate and shed loads to key critical facilities as mission requirements dictate.

Goal of military microgrids: Full grid independence

Looking ahead, subsequent military microgrids for PEARL will incorporate fuel cell electric vehicles and make use of curtailed PV to produce, store and utilize hydrogen as a baseload energy source, Molinaro explained.

PEARL’s roots stretch back to 2015 when the Hawai’i Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies, a joint venture between the Air Force, the Hawai’i Technology Development Center and the state government, joined with the Air Force Research Laboratory and signed a $20 million agreement to develop the microgrid demonstration project.

In September 2016, the Hawai’i Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies awarded Burns & McDonnell a $1.5 million contract to design six interconnected military microgrids. The funding was used for microgrid project design.

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Multiple stakeholders are involved in seeing PEARL’s microgrid projects through to fruition. They include the Air Force Research Laboratory, the National Guard Bureau, the Hawai‘i National Guard, Navy Facilities Command and the Hawaiian Electric Company, as well as local companies.

“We see this as a great opportunity for Hawai‘i and the Department of Defense to showcase the benefits of renewable energy assets and advanced technology applications with an established power grid,” McCartney said.

When all’s said and done, PEARL’s microgrid network is expected to enable the Hawaii Air National Guard base to function independently of the power grid for extended periods of time.

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