Partners Announced for U.S. Dept of Defense ESTCP Microgrid Project

Power Analytics, which was awarded a Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) contract to demonstrate the management and control of a secure cluster of microgrids at three U.S. Navy facilities in the San Diego area, recently announced the major partner companies for the project. The partners are Conner Networks, OSIsoft, Spirae and Viridity Energy.

Conner Networks will provide cyber security for the cluster solution, which when fully operational is designed to link three naval facilities into a secure cluster. OSIsoft will provide data network management, including a data historian for the system. Spirae will provide the control mechanisms for the microgrid. Viridity Energy’s software will forecast electrical loads, generation capability, and market price to allow the bases to optimize use of their electrical infrastructure.

The primary difference between this project and other military microgrid initiatives currently underway is the concept of a “cluster” of microgrids, each operating independently but coordinated and optimized both individually and collectively. The approach also “shadows” markets over the demonstration period to identify hard dollar energy opportunities as well as operational impacts. (Shadowing means viewing market pricing for energy in real time, being able to compare ESTCP costs vs market costs, but not participate in reselling energy back to the grid.) The team is also staging the work with “hardware in the loop” prior to going live at the sites in order to validate control and operational strategies without impacting the mission of the bases.

As Kevin Meagher, Power Analytics president and chief technology officer explains, the project has the potential to yield a useful template for non-military microgrid deployments. “The ability to shadow markets is key to creating a financial model that can have an ROI that is not just soft dollar savings,” he says. “The ability to coordinate assets (especially generation) and maximize intermittent renewables like solar and energy storage are all real as are operational management and maintenance plans. But the real critical piece that has typically not be included in a real-time system is the potential for market participation, and the cluster is just that much more leverage.”

A cluster can be a series of smaller microgrids or nanogrids with a single point of common coupling but with enough local control to reduce cost to implement and system complexity.

In addition to the software and equipment vendors, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) will act as consultants to the three-year microgrid project. Initial software and hardware testing is currently underway. Meagher adds that the project will help the microgrid industry explore technology and business model options for moving into the future.

“The industry is clearly going through another wave of change, directly and indirectly, as the result of a massive shift in energy — in particular for North America,” he says. “Clearly shale initiatives are having a profound impact on energy cost for generation and independence from less-stable fossil fuel alternatives. However, this shift does little to help in distribution and transmission limitations and will clearly have the opposite impact if manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries move back to North America, as is likely.”

“The real promise of microgrids in developed countries is the potential create a more locally fault tolerant, distributed generation network,” Meagher adds. “Plus the ability to bring the real cost of energy and energy efficiency down to local operating units without the need for subsidies or artificial incentives that distort the value of distributed generation and alternative energy sources — not to mention electric vehicles.”