Miramar Microgrid to Demonstrate One Solution to World’s Waste Problem

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The much-watched microgrid at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar took another big step this week with an expansion that will demonstrate landfill gas as a reliable fuel for an islanded microgrid.

landfill gas

Landfill waste will expand 70% in the next 30 years. The Miramar microgrid will demonstrate  a way to make good use of it. (Photo by Mohamed Abdulraheem/Shutterstock.com)

Initially funded by $20 million from Congress, the San Diego, California microgrid is considered one of the most sophisticated under development with five distributed energy resources, including solar, energy storage, landfill gas, diesel and natural gas plant, and EV charging.

The first phase of the demonstration project paired solar and fossil fuels. Its second phase, announced this week, will demonstrate the interplay between landfill gas and energy storage, said Mark Feasel, vice president, electric utilities & microgrid at Schneider Electric, which is developing the microgrid in conjunction with Black & Veatch.

Out of waste comes power

This step is significant because it demonstrates a way to make landfill gas more useful in generating electricity — and swap it out for fossil fuels.

Given the worldwide need to manage waste — especially in light of rapid urbanization — the search is on for ways to make productive use of gases emitted from landfills. The world generates about 2.01 billion tons of municipal waste, a figure expected to grow 70 percent over the next 30 years, according to World Bank.

Often characterized as a renewable fuel, landfill gas brings with it the same problem of other renewables — it may not always be available when you need it.

“One of the challenges associated with landfill gas is the uncertain nature of its output,” said Feasel in an interview. “It’s not like burning natural gas that has been provided by a utility, filtered and cleaned and the same pressure at all times.”

Like solar energy, landfill gas is an intermittent fuel source, but even more so, he said. “We can predict [solar] radiance based on weather. With landfill gas we cannot predict precisely what’s going to happen.”

Its unreliable nature becomes a particular problem when the microgrid islands from the main grid and relies solely on its own generators.

“If you cannot deal with that intermittency, you can’t treat it [the landfill gas] as a fuel source during outages when you do not have the main grid,” he said. “So in a microgrid scenario, absent the ability to make up for that intermittency, you simply can’t use it.”

So in some cases, projects are forced to shut down the landfill gas generation while islanded.

The Miramar microgrid intends to demonstrate how to solve the probem with a battery energy storage system, which “stiffens” the output of landfill gas.

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‘This allows us to maintain stable bus, frequency and voltage, even isolated from the grid,” he said. “It adds a big, new generation source that we frankly couldn’t have counted on in an island model.”

The battery, provided by Schneider, also will be used for other means, such as peak shaving and demand response.

The Miramar microgrid tour is sold out for Microgrid 2019. Space is still available to attend a special presentation on Miramar at the San Diego event, May 14-16.

“The microgrid is critical in allowing operations to continue if the utility power grid is compromised, and this expansion will enable enhanced capability to enable financial benefit and power assurance,” said Mick Wasco, installation energy manager, MCAS Miramar.

The California Energy Commission is funding the energy storage, and its integration and testing, through a $3.9 million grant from the Electric Program Investment Charge program.

Resources within the Miramar microgrid
  • 1.3 MW solar photovoltaics
  • 3.2 MW landfill gas
  • 6.45 MW diesel and natural gas power plant
  • 1.6 MW HVAC demand response
  • 157 kW thermal energy storage
  • EV charging station control
  • 3 MW energy storage (microgrid system level)
  • 390 kW building level energy storage (Lithium Ion and zinc flow batteries and vehicle-to-grid bi-directional hybrid vans)
  • SCADA system upgrades
  • Advanced microgrid control system
  • Energy and Water Operations center (EWOC)
To be complete in 2019

The MCAS Miramar microgrid is scheduled to be complete this year. The project was contracted through the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Southwest.

“Because of their paramount need for critical power resilience, military bases are one of the types of facilities that demand microgrid implementation for islanding capabilities and integration of renewable DER,” Feasel said. “For the many facilities hoping to boost power resilience with renewable energy generation like the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, microgrids are a sensible solution to boost power resilience and long-term sustainability efforts.”

Upon completion, the microgrid will have the ability to electrify the base’s 100 mission critical buildings, including its entire flight line, even during a power outage.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

Comments

  1. Laurie Huber says:

    Interesting— great to see this. I am wondering why wind power wasn’t also thrown into the mix to offset some of the diesel and natural gas use?

  2. Good idea Laurie. Wind and Solar can be backed up using the biomass and waste to energy conversion technology I’ve developed and tested. Google Les Blevins and Advanced Alternative Energy and send me an email and I’ll forward my position paper in a return message.

  3. Fuel cell technology is missing. Hydrogen required to feed fuel cells can be produced using solar DC electric source to electrolyze water during day time and produce electricity at night.
    Landfill gas can be upgraded (CO2 and contaminants removed) and compressed to run renewable natural gas vehicles.
    CO2 produced by the landfill gas upgrading system can be combined with hydrogen (H2) from water electrolysis to produce methane (CH4).
    Inertia wheels can be used to store energy any excess electricity.

  4. Great! i guess 100% renewable energy system with wind,solar and biogas (methane) generator,will come soon. It is informed that biogas generators are already operated in the grid.

  5. Donald McGillis says:

    Was curious on the controlling aspects of this solution. Is there a particular methodology used, for instance are you looking at AI, or functional structured code to make decisions in a predetermined manner, or in real-time as conditions change, will there be a self learning aspect to conditional changes that can be used to make better decisions over time, as it learns from what works well versus what doesn’t work well?

  6. I wonder if this new microgrid is the reason for increased odors from the landfill? If so, not ready to sign off. I live in UTC not Lemoore. We’re supposed to be a suburb of America’s Finest City, not Methane capital of the world.

  7. Janis Deady says:

    For Elisa Wood,
    What sort of odor is coming from the Miramar Microgrid project in San Diego and what sort of odors can be expected

  8. There is no limit to the amount of money that can be spent forcing the square peg of spasmodic, uncontrollable wind, solar, biogas energy into the round hole of a power grid that needs to balance generation to load precisely 60 times a second. Batteries are not cost-effective for any role but frequency regulation, can only be postured for one role at a time, and have horrible environmental and lifecycle GHG emissions footprints. All of the above could be striken from the list of microgrid resoures except for the 3.45 MW diesel and natgas power plant and the SCADA upgrades, and accomplish 90% of the same degree of energy security at 10% of the cost. Federal and state taxpayers are getting fleeced.

  9. To balance generator power and loads,grid design is more important than battery. Engine generator is necessary to integrate the intermittent renewable sources as shown in the following web.
    http://www.erg-tech.sakura.ne.jp/grid/windgrid.htm

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  1. […] Diego. Since then, the military has installed several others including sophisticated projects at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in San Diego and the US Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, South […]

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