Grid ResilienceProviding Resilient Power

Published 18 November 2021

Extreme-weather events and wildfires can put power grids under pressure and threaten their ability to produce reliable power. A microgrid demonstration project demonstrates DC microgrid technology for resilient power to homes and installations.

As illustrated this summer, extreme-weather events and wildfires can put power grids under pressure and threaten their ability to produce reliable power.

For decades, consumers have relied on electricity delivered across long distances from large, centralized power plants. But what if a neighborhood, military installation or hospital complex could safely disconnect and run on locally produced power when power from the central grid was not available?

A microgrid demonstration project, launched by Emera Technologies and Sandia, is in its second year of successful operation and data collection. Since the project ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2019, researchers have been evaluating the microgrid’s stability and how to maximize its reliability while minimizing costs, among other measures.

Housed on Kirtland Air Force Base, the project integrates solar power, batteries and other local energy sources to power a community center and temporary housing located on the base. Each building has solar panels, and the energy storage is located at a separate node. Kirtland leadership envisions the project as a new model for resilient power.

“Our leadership at Kirtland Air Force Base has established a vision for an updated, resilient infrastructure that can provide mission-critical services for generations to come,” said Joseph Pellish, 377th Mission Support Group deputy commander. “Working with Sandia and Emera as partners has provided us the opportunity to showcase advanced technologies in real settings that meet current energy needs while also promising resilient solutions for our energy system of the future. This has the potential to serve as a model for other DoD installations,” Pellish added.

Sandia has led research for advanced microgrid controls, security and integration for over a decade. The Labs’ location on an Air Force base has offered a unique opportunity to demonstrate Kirtland leadership’s vision with this new technology: a research, development and demonstration partnership that addresses the need for greater resilience. “As threats continue to evolve — related to climate challenges as well as other threats — this demonstration and what we’re learning from it serve as a great example of a new paradigm for resilience through distributed and interconnected microgrids,” said Charles Hanley, Sandia’s grid modernization program manager.

As the name implies, microgrids are localized power grids. They have control capability, meaning they can connect or disconnect from the traditional grid and even operate autonomously. Microgrids can supply primary power or backup power in case of emergencies, along with other advantages thanks to their flexibility.