Connecticut Plans 13-MW Naval Base Microgrid; Includes Nearby Community

Dec. 21, 2015
The Connecticut Office of Military Affairs is planning a naval base microgrid — tentatively sized at 13 MW and estimated to cost over $1 billion — to ensure reliability for a naval submarine base.

Connecticut is planning a naval base microgrid — tentatively sized at 13 MW and estimated to cost over $1 billion — to ensure reliability for a naval submarine base.

The state Office of Military Affairs is now identifying a combination of private, state and federal funding for the project, said Bob Ross, OMA’s executive director.

The goal of the microgrid is to provide energy security for the Groton base — which houses nuclear submarines and a submarine school — as well as for the critical services in the surrounding community, he said. The microgrid will likely integrate an existing solar array on the base, and also rely on diesel fuel and possibly natural gas and wind.

“We want to first provide energy security to the base,” Ross said. “If we lose the larger grid, the base will be able to operate the submarines.” In addition, the microgrid will reduce the base’s operating costs through peak shaving and demand management, he said.

Another goal is to protect the surrounding community during outages, Ross said.

“We haven’t figured this out, but if we have this built out, we want to take power from the base and power up local businesses.” These businesses would include gas stations and other essential services for the people who live near the base.

“People living off the base who are part of the military community will need these quality-of-life essential services. We want to  help the Navy protect its mission and help the surrounding community weather storms,” he said.

The base and surrounding community have experienced  major storms that knocked out power for days, he said. “The state  is interested in creating microgrids across the state. Our approach with the Navy is to consider the base another large community so the whole community is not susceptible to power outages. If we build out this microgrid, the Navy can use it to reduce its own operating costs by doing its own cogeneration and things like peak shaving.”

Part of the funds may come from the $40 million the General Assembly set aside for submarine base infrastructure improvements, of which $11 million already has been spent.

The base was awarded a $3 million grant from the first round of funding offered through Connecticut’s  Microgrid Grant and Loan Pilot Program in July 2013. The money is funding a 5-MW cogeneration turbine and a 1.5 MW diesel generator to serve various buildings and piers.

The Navy paid for the first phase of the project, which identified how the microgrid would be tied into the base and how it would connect to the grid, said Ross.

The second phase of the project, estimated to cost $1.1 billion, involves designing a new distribution system.

“We are financing the design of the new distribution systems on the base,” he said. “We will enhance the distribution and switching system so the microgrid could switch back and forth” from the base to the power provider.

It’s unclear who would own the microgrid.

Ross said he doesn’t want to rush this project. “I won’t hurry. I want to get this right. If we have microgrid running in a couple of years. I will be happy with it,” he said.

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About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

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