Ameresco’s Parris Island Military Microgrid Goes Live

June 20, 2019
Another military microgrid is now live, this one a 10-MW Ameresco project at the US Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) on Parris Island, South Carolina.

Another military microgrid is now live, this one a 10-MW Ameresco project at the US Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, South Carolina.

The $91 million project, which features energy efficiency and renewables, is designed to withstand storms and earthquakes.

The US military was an early leader in microgrid development and continues to pursue energy independence and resiliency for its bases. The Army, for example, is striving to make its facilities capable of operating off grid for 14 days.

The Marine Corps trains about 20,000 recruits annually on Parris Island. If a power outage occurs on the central grid, the microgrid will keep power flowing on the 8000-acre base so that training can continue.

“Resiliency at MCRD Parris Island means providing uninterruptible power in support of critical training operations,” said Nicole Bulgarino, executive vice president at Ameresco. “Distributed generation systems like the comprehensive solution we have just built there deliver a layered defense against threats to the power supply.”

Renewable microgrids also offer a route to curb military use of petroleum. The US Department of Defense is the single largest consumer of petroleum in the world. Navigant Research estimates that the military could save $8-$20 billion over the next 20 years by shifting from a reliance on backup diesel generators to large-scale microgrids.

On Parris Island, the military is expected to save $6.9 million in annual utility and operational costs as a result of the energy makeover, which includes:

  • Replacement of a power plant with 3.5 MW of combined heat and power and three diesel backup generators
  • 20,000 solar modules, installed at carport and ground-mount sites, which provide 5.5 MW. The solar panels provide shelter for more than 500 parking spaces.
  • Batteries totalling 4 MW/8 MWh
  • Intelligent microgrid controls to assure power supply in the event of central grid outages

Ameresco is among a growing number of large energy companies that take a comprehensive approach to microgrid projects, not only installing controllers, generation and energy storage, but also maximizing energy and water efficiency at a facility. The Parris Island project reduces utility energy demand by 75%, and water consumption by 25%.

The military paid no upfront capital costs, a common financial arrangement for microgrid projects now. This was achieved via an energy savings performance contract with Ameresco.

Under the contract, Ameresco will operate and maintain the military microgrid and its energy assets for 22 years.

Read about more military microgrids.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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