Microgrids for Military Bases to Surpass $377 Million in Annual Market Value by 2018

[Note: The following is the Executive Summary of a research report published in Q4 by Navigant Research, reprinted with permission.] 

Military Microgrids Overview 

The United States Department of Defense (DOD) is the single largest consumer of petroleum in the world. Likewise, U.S. military operations represent the largest consumer of all forms of energy globally. Efforts by the U.S. DOD may be the most crucial push for the overall microgrid market today, especially in terms of control approaches for these smart grid networks based on a bottoms-up distributed model for its operational and tactical deployments of microgrid technology. The DOD’s interest in improving energy security through microgrid technology stems from its heavy reliance upon all forms of fossil fuels, often imported from regions of the world hostile to U.S. interests. Consider this: U.S. military operations in Afghanistan have paid the equivalent of $400 per gallon of fossil fuel when security, transportation, and mortality costs are tallied up. The largest consumer of fuels in the battlefield is electricity generation. 

Microgrids can shrink the amount of fossil fuels consumed to create electricity by networking generators as a system to maximize efficiency. They can also be used 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 forward operating bases (FOBs) — to sustain operations, no matter what is happening on the larger utility grid or in the theater of war. These microgrid networks can also provide tactical operations support. 

The military’s primary concern is disruption of service from utility transmission and distribution (T&D) lines. Its lack of control and ownership of these lines — and the uneven quality of power service regionally throughout the United States — has prompted the U.S. DOD to reexamine the existing electricity service delivery model. This analysis has led the DOD to the inevitable conclusion that the best way to bolster its ability to secure power may well be through microgrid technology it can often own and control. Furthermore, recent mandates require an increase in the reliance upon renewable energy developed onsite, whether the generation is solar PV or waste-to-energy combustion. A microgrid can tie these disparate and distributed resources together and allow them to be managed locally.

While the DOD is not the only military agency exploring microgrids as a platform to increase physical and cyber security, it is by far the most advanced in its efforts in that regard. Other nations rumored to be examining the potential for microgrids include the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and China. Given the sensitive nature of military operations, little data is available about these non-DOD rumored projects. Navigant Research has therefore elected to limit its military microgrid capacity and revenue forecasts in this report to systems deployed by the U.S. DOD.

Stationary Military Bases

As awareness about the electrical grid’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks and severe storms has increased in recent times, the U.S. military has become one of the strongest proponents of microgrids. For fixed base military operations, microgrids offer the ultimate secure power supply. Many Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and other military-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 renewable distributed energy generation (RDEG) onsite. When capable of safe islanding from the surrounding grid, RDEG offers the ultimate security since fuel never runs out with solar or wind resources.

Navigant Research has identified roughly two dozen military facilities in the United States that are currently engaged in smart microgrid implementations. The Marines show the fastest initial capacity growth spurt, but the Army shows signs of longer-term increases in annual capacity. This is because the Army has a larger number of stationary bases requiring microgrid upgrades.

Most of these new microgrids incorporate RDEG as a way of increasing reliability and security. The opportunity to help develop these microgrids has attracted a number of powerful technology companies, including Lockheed Martin, General Electric (GE), Honeywell, Boeing, and Eaton.


Forward Operating Base and Mobile Tactical Military Microgrids 

The DOD is also responsible for approximately 600 bases located outside the boundaries of the United States, many of them FOBs that face unique logistical challenges. In addition, the DOD is exploring the role small mobile and tactical microgrids can play in actual combat missions being deployed in the theater of war.

Many of the abovementioned firms — as well as other specialty component providers such as ZBB Energy, SkyBuilt Power, and Princeton Power Systems — are also involved with the two other microgrid segments profiled in this report, FOB and mobile tactical. The definitions of these two segments are as follows:

  • FOB microgrids: Typically remote fossil fuel-based systems that may interconnect to primitive power grids
  • Mobile tactical microgrids: Extremely modular, small systems that may be deployed within a matter of days and then deconstructed and moved to a new location, per tactical mission 

The DOD had placed a higher urgency on these latter two microgrid segments in recent years due to heavy casualties related to the provision of fuel in landlocked Afghanistan. However, now the focus appears to be shifting toward stationary base microgrids, which represent an overall larger economic opportunity. 

Source: Navigant Research report, Military Microgrids, reprinted with permission.