News: Energy assurance only a microgrid away
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. – Methane-powered generators first started at the Miramar Landfill, June 14, 2012, in order to create a sustainable, yet renewable, energy source for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., and now installation officials and energy managers are looking forward to making the air station completely self-sufficient when it comes to its energy needs.
Mick Wasco, energy manager aboard the air station, his team and installation officials are currently working on a project to begin making the air station its own microgrid.
A microgrid is a system that localizes power. With this capability, the air station can generate and control its own power consumption without having to rely on the San Diego power grid at all. When the plan comes to fruition, MCAS Miramar will be able to provide, manage and maintain its own power usage even if the area around the installation goes dark.
Presently the Miramar Landfill provides almost 45 percent of the installation’s renewable energy. Half the installation’s power is renewable through the use of solar panels, other special energy and resource-efficient equipment.
“The landfill is producing [energy] as expected,” said Wasco. “The exciting part about it is looking into how to [further] use the power from the landfill for energy security.”
San Diego provides half of the power used aboard the air station. This energy runs on a centralized power grid used by the entire county, and if the electricity were to go out in San Diego, Miramar would go dark as well.
According to Wasco, the idea of a microgrid has been around for years, but is innovative for an installation like MCAS Miramar to use.
“[A microgrid] gives us the ability to generate and move energy where we want it as well as energy assurance,” said Col. John Farnam, MCAS Miramar commanding officer. “I can control (whether) buildings get energy or not, when we need to turn it on and off, and we couple that with the constant energy coming from the landfill we have the ability to support ourselves should the rest of California go dark.”
If MCAS Miramar was its own power source, then the air station would theoretically be able to support the city should a natural disaster occur and cut electricity to San Diego, Farnam explained.
Officials at Miramar are learning from other microgrids in the area like the University of California at San Diego, Borrego Springs and also from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., which is already its own microgrid.
“[Our] project to make the installation a microgrid is still being developed,” explained Wasco. “We’ve done a study with the Department of Energy in their National Renewable Energy Lab where we discovered that we could actually do this and the funding will come from the Energy Conservation Investment Program. The design analysis showed us how we could do it and we are preparing to get this project under way.”
The goal for this latest project is projected to finish by 2017, giving Wasco and his team three years to complete their mission.
“This is a very large project, probably the biggest project MCAS Miramar has seen for energy so far,” said Wasco. “We’re working really hard to get started, but these kinds of projects take time.”