Solar Microgrid Proposed for Southern California Army Airfield

Sept. 7, 2021
The Los Alamitos Army Air Field in Orange County, California is planning on hosting a 30-MW solar microgrid. The California Army National Guard, which operates the airfield, would develop the microgrid.  

The Joint Forces Training Base-Los Alamitos Army Airfield in Orange County, California, is planning on hosting a 30-MW solar microgrid. The California Army National Guard, which operates the airfield, would develop the microgrid.  

The microgrid would provide increased energy resilience and security at the Joint Forces Training Base-Los Alamitos Army Airfield. The airfield’s mission is to provide critical response during emergencies in the Southern California region. A 2020 Army directive requires all of its units to ensure reliable and high-quality power and water to continuously sustain critical missions. And a Department of Defense directive requires its facilities to produce or procure at least 25% of the energy they use from renewable resources by 2025 and beyond.

According to a completed energy assessment describing the project, the California Army National Guard, with technical support from the Army’s Office of Energy Initiatives, evaluated the potential environmental, socioeconomic and cultural effects of the solar PV system, which includes energy storage and backup diesel generation.

The California Army National Guard has selected a developer to install and operate the microgrid, according to Douglas Bryceson, conservation program manager/deputy director environmental programs for the California Army National Guard. The developer’s name and details of the lease have not been announced. Project cost is also unknown. The lease is for up to 107 acres on the 1,300-acre airfield and will be approved and signed by the US Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of the Army. The developer would also run both underground and overhead interconnection lines to serve Southern California Edison’s (SCE) regional grid connection points and the airfield’s electrical infrastructure.

The single-axis-tilting solar PV arrays would be built at two separate 15-MW sites on the airfield, and the power generated would feed directly into SCE’s grid. Single-axis-tilting solar arrays were selected to prevent glint and glare for operating aircraft and nearby residents following testing, according to the environmental assessment.

The battery energy storage system (BESS), to be co-located on the sites, would store power and release it to the regional grid when power is not being produced by the solar arrays, for example, when the sun is not shining. The diesel generation would be located at a separate nearby site. The microgrid would operate independently if the grid goes down because of natural disaster or terrorism. 

If either of those events happen, one solar array and one BESS would provide the nominal 3-MW emergency power requirement to the airfield. If they were unable to provide that power, the diesel-fired generation would meet the 3-MW requirement, according to the environmental assessment. The current plan is for the other solar array and BESS to not be connected to the microgrid and instead provide power only to the regional grid. However, at some point in the future, the solar PV array and BESS could be connected to the second system to also provide energy to the installation during a grid outage

The California Army National Guard and the National Guard Bureau, the lead federal agency, will execute the contract on the basis of there being no significant environmental impact of the project once it is built.

The Joint Forces Training Base-Los Alamitos Army Airfield is owned by the Army and operated by the California Army National Guard. It is located about 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles and five miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is home to a variety of California National Guard and US Army Reserve units and hosts many other military and civilian organizations.

Learn about other military microgrids in California. Join us for Microgrid California, a one-day educational forum October 5 in Foster City.

About the Author

Lyn Corum

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