DoD aims for self-reliance with SPIDERS microgrid
Declaring that today's electrical grid is unacceptably at high risk of extended outages, the Defense Department is spearheading a $30 million effort to prove it can cobble together a host of traditional and renewable sources into a smart microgrid capable of powering a military installation for an extended period of time.
The effort, a program known as a joint capability technology demonstration and done in collaboration with the departments of Energy and Homeland Security, goes by the moniker of SPIDERS, which stands for Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security.
Should there be a disruption to commercial utility power, "a secure microgrid can isolate from the grid and provide backup power to ensure continuity of mission-critical loads," said Col. Nancy Grandy, oversight executive of the SPIDERS JCTD in a Feb. 18 statement.
The goal, say program managers, is to connect diesel generators and renewable electricity sources such as solar panels or turbines into a microgrid that's more durable and long-lasting than any single source could be.
"People run single diesel generators all the time to support buildings, but they don't run interconnected diesels with solar, hydrogen fuel cells and so on, as a significant energy source. It's not completely unheard of, but it's a real integration challenge," said Jason Stamp, lead project engineer for SPIDERS at Sandia Laboratory.
The SPIDERS microgrid will also differ from the electricity grid surrounding military bases in that cybersecurity will be a part of its design rather than an add-on.
The plan is to complete the SPIDERS demonstration in three phases of increasing complexity, starting with a microgrid at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Honolulu that will integrate a 146 kilowatt solar power system and up to 50 kW of wind power. Contractor Burns & McDonnell announced on June 22 the start of construction in Hickam.
The second installation, set for deployment in Fort Carson, Colo., will be larger and more complex, with 2 megawatts of solar power, several large diesel generators and electrical vehicles set for integration into a microgrid that will also have large-scale energy storage.
Camp H.M. Smith in Oahu will host the final phase, which should permit solar and diesel generators to power the entire base with 5 MW of power.
The drive for the DoD to have its own grid for military bases stems from a February 2008 Defense Science Board report (.pdf), which characterized the DoD installations as beset by increased critical load demands while having to relying on a grid diminished in resiliency. Installations also lack backup generators and transformer spares in sufficient numbers to enable quick repair.