Millions for Military’s Microgrids: How About the Rest of the US?

December 10th, 2012 - by admin

Procurment & Pike Research & – 2012-12-10 00:23:40–?highlight=microgrids

Global Corporates Switch on Microgrid Electricity Generation

(November 29, 2012) — There are “aggressive” global moves towards microgrids, which produce electronically locally for corporates and government organisations, energy experts report.

“Large and small companies, as well as various government and research departments, are moving aggressively to create or assemble new micro grids,” says Pike Reserch senior research analyst Peter Asmus.

He added that new microgrid components, usually in the form of small amounts of solar PV or a new advanced energy storage unit, are currently driving this trend. In the future, however, greenfield microgrid projects are expected to become increasingly prevalent.

According to a new tracker report from Pike Research, the number of active microgrid projects around the world continues to increase at a “brisk pace”, as does the total installed capacity of microgrids.

All told, the Microgrid Deployment Tracker documents 67 newly identified microgrid entries, equating to an increase of 571 megawatts (MW) in worldwide capacity, compared to the sum of past projects included in Pike Research’s tracking. Planned, proposed, under-development, and fully operating microgrids now represent nearly 3,200 MW of total capacity, according to the report.

One key driver of microgrid market growth, adds Asmus, is the defence sector: “The US Secretary of Defense [Leon Panetta] recently conducted a survey of Department of Defense (DOD) facilities that included an inventory of onsite electrical infrastructure focused on microgrid deployments.

“According to the Secretary of Defense, more than 40 US military bases currently have operating microgrids, have planned microgrids, or have conducted studies or demonstrations of microgrid technologies,” Pike Research noted.

Military Microgrids
Pike Research (Single issue price: $3,800)

(September 2011) — The United States Department of Defense (DOD) is the single largest consumer of petroleum in the world. US military operations are also the largest consumer of all forms of energy globally. Microgrids can shrink the amount of fossil fuels consumed to create electricity by networking generators as a system to maximize efficiency.

Yet they are also a vehicle to help integrate renewable energy resources (such as wind and solar) at the local distribution grid level. Simultaneously, microgrids enable military bases — both stationary and tactical — to sustain operations, no matter what is happening on the larger utility grid or in the theater of war.

As awareness about the electrical grid’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks has increased in recent times, the US military has become one of the strongest proponents of microgrids. Microgrids offer the ultimate secure power supply for fixed base military operations. Many army, navy, air force, and other related bases and offices already have vintage microgrids in place.

What is new is that these facilities are looking to envelop entire bases with microgrids and integrate distributed energy generation on-site. These resources, when capable of safe islanding from the surrounding grid, offer the ultimate security since fuel never runs out with solar or wind resources.

The opportunity to help develop these microgrids has attracted a number of powerful technology companies including Lockheed Martin, GE, Honeywell, Boeing, and Eaton.

This Pike Research report examines business and deployment models for stationary and mobile microgrids for military applications. The report analyzes market drivers, implementation requirements, and technology issues for military microgrid installations, as well as providing detailed profiles of key industry players and case studies of military microgrid projects. Detailed revenue and capacity forecasts for the market extend through 2017.

Key Questions Addressed:
• Why is the US Department of Defense so aggressively developing microgrids?
• What are the key technology innovations that are enabling both fixed and mobile microgrids?
• How does the business case differ between fixed base and tactical mobile microgrids?
• Beyond defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, GE, Honeywell, and Boeing, who are the emerging players in this field?
• How do microgrid control systems differ, and why should this matter to military operations?
• How are military operations tapping the private sector for creative financing of microgrids (and demand response) opportunities?
• How fast will the markets grow for both fixed base and mobile microgrids?
• How will proposed withdrawals of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq impact the military microgrid sector?

US Power Grid Vulnerable to Just About Everything
Jen Alic /

WASHINGTON, DC (November 26, 2012) — As Washington hunts ill-defined al-Qaeda groups in the Middle East and Africa, and concerns itself with Iran’s eventual nuclear potential, it has a much more pressing problem at home: Its energy grid is vulnerable to anyone with basic weapons and know-how.

Forget about cyber warfare and highly organized terrorist attacks, a lack of basic physical security on the US power grid means that anyone with a gun-like disgruntled Michigan Militia types, for instance — could do serious damage.

For the past two months, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been tasked with creating a security strategy for the electric grid and hydrocarbon facilities through its newly created Office of Energy Infrastructure Security. So far, it’s not good news.

“There are ways that a very few number of actors with very rudimentary equipment could take down large portions of our grid,” warns FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. This, he says, “is an equal if not greater issue” than cyber security.

FERC’s gloom-and-doom risk assessment comes on the heels of the recent declassification of a 2007 report by the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Sciences on 14 November warned that a terrorist attack on the US power grid could wreak more damage than Hurricane Sandy. It could cause massive blackouts for weeks or months at a time. But this would only be the beginning, the Academy warns, spelling out an “end of days” scenario in which blackouts lead to widespread fear, panic and instability.

What they are hinting at is revolution — and it wouldn’t take much.

So what is being done to mitigate risk? According to FERC, utility companies aren’t doing enough. Unfortunately, FERC does not have the power to order utilities to act in the name of protecting the country’s energy infrastructure. Security is expensive, and more than 90% of the country’s grid is privately owned and regulated by state governments. Private utilities are not likely to feel responsible for footing the bill for security, and states may not be able to afford it.

One key problem is theoretically a simple one to resolve: a lack of spare parts. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the grid is particularly vulnerable because it is spread out across hundreds of miles with key equipment not sufficiently guarded or antiquated and unable to prevent outages from cascading.

We are talking about some 170,000 miles of voltage transmission line miles fed by 2,100 high-voltage transformers delivering power to 125 million households.

“We could easily be without power across a multistate region for many weeks or months, because we don’t have many spare transformers,” according to the Academy.

High-voltage transformers are vulnerable both from within and from outside the substations in which they are housed. Complicating matters, these transformers are huge and difficult to remove.

They are also difficult to replace, as they are custom built primarily outside the US. So what is the solution? Perhaps, says the Academy, to design smaller portable transformers that could be used temporarily in an emergency situation.

Why was the Academy’s 2007 report only just declassified? Well, its authors were worried that it would be tantamount to providing terrorists with a detailed recipe for attacking and destabilizing America, or perhaps for starting a revolution.

The military at least is preparing to protect its own power supplies. Recently, the US Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $7 million contract for research that demonstrates the integration of electric vehicles, generators and solar arrays to supply emergency power for Fort Carson, Colorado. This is the SPIDERS (Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security), and the Army hopes it will be the answer to more efficient and secure energy.

Back in the civilian world, however, things are moving rather slowly, and the focus remains on the sexier idea of an energy-crippling cyberattack.

Last week, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) urged House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to pass a bill—the GRID Act–which would secure the grid against cyberattacks.

“As the widespread and, in some cases, still ongoing power outages from Superstorm Sandy have shown us, our electric grid is too fragile and its disruption is too devastating for us to fail to act,” Markey wrote. “Given this urgency, it is critical that the House act immediately in a bipartisan manner to ensure our electrical infrastructure is secure.”

This bill was passed by the House, but has failed to gain any traction in the Senate.

FERC, of course, is all for the bill, which would give it the authority to issue orders and regulations to boost the security of the electric grid’s computer systems from a cyberattack. But it’s only a small piece of the security puzzle, and FERC remains concerned that authorities are overlooking the myriad simpler threats to the electricity grid. These don’t make for the easy headlines, especially since they are not necessarily foreign in nature.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.