Energy security is an increasingly critical issue for the U.S. military. One way to stabilize the U.S. electrical grid in vulnerable areas is to deploy solar-powered microgrids, according to a new report from Michigan Technological University (MTU). Solar microgrids can enhance energy security by localizing power production and preventing cascading blackouts.
The U.S. military already has a “25 by 2025” renewable energy policy in place—25% of all energy must come from renewable sources by 2025. But less than 7% of military bases currently have solar-powered microgrids, according to the study of military energy usage as reported in Renewable Energy World:
“… Only 27 of the more than 400 domestic military sites either have fortified PV microgrids running now or have plans to do so, which makes the majority vulnerable to long-term power disruptions.”
Disruptions to the power grid – either from natural disaster or attack – can pose a serious threat to military operations, since the armed forces are dependent on electrical infrastructure to carry out their central mission of protecting U.S. citizens. Study authors found that the U.S. electrical grid is extremely vulnerable to these disruptions, and recommended solar-powered microgrids as the most flexible, secure form of distributed generation. From the article:
Microgrids provide flexibility and enable generation to persist even if distribution fails, maintaining performance for critical infrastructure while decreasing the chance of cascading failures. Solar, because of its decreasing costs and geographically distributed access to long-term solar “fuel,” makes the most sense for powering microgrids.
The research team studied military energy usage across the U.S. and found that the military would need 17 GW of solar-powered microgrids plus storage to provide protection against grid failure. To put this in perspective, the U.S. has installed a total capacity of 22.7 GW of solar to date, so there is plenty of room for improvement.
The team also looked at the market capabilities to build this additional microgrid capacity and found that the skills and resources are currently available. Lessons learned from the military’s solar-powered microgrid projects could help inform future microgrid systems, helping to protect critical infrastructure at government facilities, hospitals and businesses, as well as homes and neighborhoods.