Microgrids

Sandia Researchers Tackle Energy Distribution at Military Bases

A Sandia National Laboratories research team headed by Dave Menicucci has taken a Labs-developed model, Energy Surety, and applied it to U.S. Army military bases to try to improve energy generation and transmission. The Microgrid team envisions small generation units and storage closer to where people live, work, and use power, and sees less generation at big plants.

“In today’s grid system, power generators [coal, nuclear, gas] are located far from the load — the place where people live, work and use power,” Menicucci said. “This requires much distributed wiring and has a potential for power disruption.” The proposed Microgrid system model can operate with or without the grid. In addition to being smaller, the power generators would integrate a diversified fuel mix, include secure onsite fuel storage and apply sustainable technology, such as renewable energy. Menicucci asserts that current generation methods are not sustainable. Rush Robinett, senior manager of Sandia’s Energy and Infrastructures Futures Group, said this model is “like back to the future. Military bases used to co-manufacture energy in the same area as is proposed here. Now most are totally dependent on the grid for power.” Energy systems with high levels of energy surety must safely supply energy to end users; securely use diversified energy sources; reliably maintain power when and where needed; and produce energy cost effectively. Plus, they must be sustainable — being able to be maintained indefinitely (“indefinite” is based on the American Indian definition of seven generations or 200 years). Menicucci said the current grid system meets some of these criteria, while the proposed Microgrid system for military bases would meet all. “The ultimate goal is to have microgrids at all military bases in the country and eventually in civilian communities,” Menicucci says. This would reduce single points of failure by cutting down the number of transmission lines, which, he says, run for “thousands of miles.” Funding for the project comes from the U.S. Army and the internal Sandia Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program.