Miramar, One of Largest Military Microgrid Projects, Readies to Show How It’s Done

July 8, 2016
Miramar, one of the most-watched U.S. miltary microgrid projects, is getting ready to demonstrate that today’s microgrids are about a whole lot more than just back-up power.

Photo By: Cpl. Alissa Schuning

Miramar, one of the most-watched U.S. miltary microgrid projects, is getting ready to demonstrate that today’s microgrids are about a whole lot more than just back-up power.

That was the word from Mick Wasco, installation energy manager at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in San Diego, in an interview this week, following announcement that the Department of Defense had selected Black & Veatch and Schneider Electric to develop the microgrid.

With $20 million in Congressional funding, the San Diego naval base is building one of the largest military microgid projects. As such, Miramar is a frequent topic at industry gatherings, especially since release of its solicitation for a microgrid developer about two years ago.

No military microgrid has received more money from Congress to date. And Wasco would like to see that money put to use not only enhancing military energy security, but also showing what an advanced microgrid offers the larger central grid.

“What I’m really looking forward to is the collaboration with the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission and the California ISO,” Wasco said. “This may only be 7 MW of generation, which is really a drop in the bucket compared to what the state needs to stabilize the grid. But my proposition to these organizations is that the government is spending money on energy security to make its own grid redundant and secure. There is no reason why we can’t multipurpose those assets to support the grid and make the grid more distributed.”

Such work is in keeping with a growing trend within the industry to demonstrate the complex value that advanced microgrids bring to North America’s grid. Early projects focused on reliability; newer iterations continue to do so. But they also are focusing on how microgrid software can puzzle out complex relationships to achieve best economics for microgrid customers and also help the central grid by providing a host of services, including firming renewable energy.

[clickToTweet tweet=”San Diego military base to show microgrids are about more than back-up power. @SchneiderNA” quote=”San Diego military base to show microgrids are about more than back-up power.”]

Miramar, which expects to have the advanced microgrid operating by July 2018, is building upon distributed energy assets already on the base, including 1.6 MW of solar PV and 3.2 MW generated from landfill methane gas. It also already has a small microgrid within the microgrid that uses a synchronized flow battery and PV to island a building. Schneider and Black & Veatch will add two diesel and two natural gas generators, totaling 7 MW.

The generators will be used in several ways: for backup power, to provide support services to the central grid, and help the installation reduce its utility demand charges, manage load and participate in demand response programs.

The generation also will be used to firm renewable energy. “For us that’s a huge economic opportunity,” said Wasco, who said that spikes in demand created by the intermittency of the landfill gas costs the installation up to $300,000 per year in demand charges.

The team of Schneider and Black & Veatch were selected as developers from a solicitation issued by the Department of Defense in 2014.

Miramar ZnBr Flow Battery Simulated MicroGrid, in the Energy Storage Lab (ESL) at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)..

Mark Feasel, Schneider Electric’s vice president for utility segment and smart grid, said that the Miramar project also models how to incorporate utility-scale components within a microgrid connected at the 12-kV level. Rather than using components and software common to campus-style microgrids, the project is taking advantage of the high-end functionality of utility-scale equipment.

“We’re able to bring in those utility class solutions and scale them down, which is often a difficult thing to do; they tend to be large and expensive,” Feasel said.

Phil Barton, director of the Microgrid Competency Center at Schneider Electric, said that the project also highlights “the continued demonstration that with microgrids it really takes a village.” Schneider’s ability and willingness to partner with others – in this case Black & Veatch — likely helped win the bid, he said. Schneider follows the business partnership model in developing microgrids. Another example is its work on the Texas Oncor microgrid with S&C Electric.

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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 RealEnergyWriters.com, 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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