Army tests energy microgrid

Roland Piquepaille blogs that the Army is working on an "energy surety" model with Sandia National Laboratories. Instead on relying on today's grid electricity system, this microgrid system will use small power generation units close to where people live and work.

Roland Piquepaille blogs that the Army is working on an "energy surety" model with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). "Instead on relying on today's grid electricity system, this microgrid system will use small power generation units close to where people live and work. And it will use renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power," Roland writes. The goal is to deliver energy with no more than five minutes of outage per year.

The SNL press release calls it a "back to the future" idea. "Military bases used to co-manufacture energy in the same area as is proposed here," Rush Robinett, senior manager of Sandia's Energy and Infrastructures Futures Group, says. "Now most are totally dependent on the grid for power."

Roland has some diagrams of what a military surety model would look like.

SNL researchers say while today's grid is safe, it's inefficient. There's no energy crisis when you can control where it's coming from and how it's getting to its destination, the researchers suggest.

"It's not that we are running out of oil and coal, it's that we can't predict the cost, implying that we can't afford it," [research team leader Dave Meniucci] says. "The demand for more fuel from China and India are driving prices up. There are also limits to where we can drill."

It is safe -- it's not introducing any new dangers. It's secure because it uses a diverse mix of fuels -- solar, wind, and oil. It's reliable because it uses a variety of types of generators. There is a redundancy of generation and storage. It's sustainable because it is using renewable energies. And, it is cost-effective because it uses energy sources that are readily available and appropriate for the site. (An example is that solar could be used in the Southwest and wind along the nation's coastlines.)

Roland notes: "So that's the theory. Now, the concept needs to be tested. It should be done on an unknown military base in the beginning of 2007. And if all goes well, some civilian communities might benefit from this technology in a few years."

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