Microgrid Use on the Rise with Military and Beyond

The use of a microgrid system could help the US military stay operational in the case of an attack on America’s main electricity grid.

The findings were published in a paper by Michigan Technological University engineering and energy policy experts, who say going off-grid — by using a microgrid system — can protect important services such as military outposts and hospitals, which have become increasingly reliant on electricity.

“The US military is extremely dependent on electricity now; it’s not people fighting with bayonets,” said co-author Joshua Pearce. Pearce also remarked on another benefit of microgrids: energy efficiency. “If we put the money into PV-powered microgrids, it would be making us objectively more secure and we get a return on our investment as after the initial investment in PV the military would enjoy free solar electricity for the next 25 years.”

The Department of Defense recently announced plans to conduct a microgrid demonstration under the auspices of the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) at Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Michigan, often used by the National Guard. Essentially, the project will “island” the microgrid from the main utility grid to ensure that nearby military centers maintain power during any emergency.

Microgrids are also becoming a popular method for saving energy in densely populated residential areas. Last month, New York City began construction on its microgrid at Marcus Garvey village, an apartment complex in Brooklyn. The project will reduce the property’s power consumption by managing the generation and storage of renewable energy. It also will provide resiliency during an outage, lower operational cost, deliver essential load relief for Con Edison, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A report by Navigant Research says the microgrid market will reach nearly $20 billion in annual revenue by 2020. A report by Deloitte says the current microgrid market stands at $1.5 billion with the biggest users being universities, the military and community/residential.

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