Parris Island Military Microgrid Promises to Ensure Reliable, Secure Energy

Dec. 4, 2017
Ameresco is building a 10-MW military microgrid on Parris Island, as described in this final excerpt from a Microgrid Knowledge series on clean energy microgrids.

A new military microgrid on Parris Island promises to ensure reliable and secure energy, as described in this sixth and final post in a Microgrid Knowledge series, “The Rise of the Clean Energy Microgrid.” 

Download the full report.

Marines must be superbly trained, well equipped, bravely led and tough enough to accomplish the mission regardless of obstacles. Their energy supply must do the same; it must be resilient.

So when their Parris Island training facility needed a new electrical system, the Marines selected Ameresco for the job.

After a competitive solicitation, Ameresco was given the task in January 2017 to replace an outmoded legacy plant at the South Carolina base, an 8,095-acre compound where as many as 20,000 recruits train annually.

The new facility — a 10 MW military microgrid complex — is being developed under a $91.1 million energy savings performance contract through the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center.

The Parris Island microgrid promises to not only ensure reliable and secure energy, but also reduce lifecycle operating costs and mitigate electric commodity price volatility. Its resources will include:

  • 3.5 MW natural gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant
  • 6.7 MW-DC of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels
  • 8 MWh of battery energy storage
  • 3.5 MW backup diesel generators
  • Two 30,000 lb/hour dual fuel backup boilers

The microgrid’s primary mission is to provide continuous on-site energy in the event of a central grid failure. If utility power goes down, the microgrid’s intelligent controller automatically disconnects or “islands” from the central grid and turns on its onsite generators to power the base.

With the new CHP plant, the base will be able to eliminate use of an aging, inefficient and highly polluting fuel oil #6 central steam plant. The PV arrays and lithium-ion battery energy storage system will add a layer of resilience to the microgrid. The batteries will capture and store over 1.1 million kWh of excess from the PV generation for later use. This will allow the base to reduce power and energy purchases from the utility.

The new facility also will serve the full steam needs of the base during normal, or “grid-connected” operations. This too will allow the base to offset utility energy purchases.

However, the microgrid’s primary mission — which sets it apart from standard power production — is to provide continuous on-site energy in the event of a central grid failure. If utility power goes down, the military microgrid has an intelligent controller that automatically disconnects or “islands” from the central grid and turns on its onsite generators to power the base.

To ensure optimal orchestration of the generation assets, the military microgrid controller will monitor and coordinate the dispatch. When load shedding is necessary, the controller will determine where to reduce or shut off power, based on the base’s priorities, as well as power and energy conditions at the time. The software also is responsible for re-connecting the microgrid after islanding and checking the health of the utility connections.

Energy and water efficiency upgrades to 121 Parris Island buildings round out the project. Ameresco is installing more than 29,000 high-efficiency LED-based fixtures and retrofits to replace existing lighting systems. The energy efficiency lighting will reduce annual maintenance costs.

Other improvements include upgrades to the energy monitoring and controls system (EMCS), heating ventilation and air conditioning, chillers, cooling towers, lighting controls, water fixtures and steam traps.

These EMCS upgrades will improve overall energy efficiency and system performance and optimize building operations and maintenance. This in turn will extend the operating lifespan of mechanical and electrical equipment, leading to lower utility costs, and a better quality of life for people in the buildings.

Overall, the project will revitalize Parris Island’s existing infrastructure and enhance the reliability and functionality of site buildings and facilities. With the new microgrid and system upgrades Ameresco calculates that the base will annually:

  • Generate 10 MW of electricity on-site
  • reduce its utility energy demand by 79 percent (about 384,962 million BTUs)
  • reduce water use by 27 percent (74.6 million gallons)
  • reduce CO2 production by 37,165 metric tons

The microgrid, authorized under a task order with the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center, is slated to be complete in the summer of 2019.

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot has been on Parris Island continuously for 100 years and the Navy presence dates back to the 1860s. All male recruits east of the Mississippi River and all female recruits nationwide are trained for 13 weeks at this facility.

The Microgrid Knowledge series on clean energy also covered the following topics:

“The Rise of Clean Energy Microgrids: Why microgrids make sense for hospitals, higher education, military & government and businesses,”  is downloadable free of charge courtesy of Ameresco.

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.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

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