Designing new solar projects to be ‘microgrid-ready’ can boost their value. As is often the case with energy innovation, the military is leading the way in this practice. Redstone Arsenal is a good example.
Based in Alabama, the facility is a strategic hub for both the Army and NASA, so energy security is crucial. Thus, the Army plans to install a photovoltaic project that will produce 18,000 MWh/year onsite. From the start, the system will be microgrid-ready; it will be designed with technology that allows for easy connection to a future microgrid.
The Army is pursing the project to achieve greater energy security. As Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability said in August, following a meeting with prequalified vendors: “…we are not doing these projects for politically motivated reasons or because of the mandate (energy goal of 25 percent production of energy (1GW) from renewable sources by 2025). We are doing them for mission effectiveness.”
The practice of making new solar projects microgrid-ready is expected to grow beyond military installations to other government facilities, campuses, institutions and businesses that position their energy plants for continuous improvement.
Darren Hammell, chief strategy officer for Princeton Power Systems, described the Redstone Arsenal project as a “big forward step for the Army and the solar industry.” He added, “Commercial, industrial, and residential solar customers are increasingly asking for microgrid capability, and the Army is leading the way by showing it’s technically feasible and economically advantageous.”
The Army has issued a notice of intent to award the project to Sunpower, a step that precedes a final possible contract. In the coming months, Sunpower and the Army project team will work to finalize the project’s technical and legal requirements.
The contractor will finance, design, build, operate, own and maintain the production facilities under a power purchase agreement. The Army will purchase power from the solar plant at a cost equal to or less than its current cost at Redstone Arsenal.
“This is a huge milestone toward our energy security and turning this vision into reality for the arsenal,” said Col. Bill Marks, garrison commander, Redstone Arsenal. “This solar project will generate power that will make the arsenal more secure, efficient and environmentally friendly.”
The project is being managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, and the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI) and the U.S. Army Garrison – Redstone Arsenal.
The request for proposals closed October 2.
Follow us on Twitter @MicrogridNews to keep up with the latest microgrid projects.