At Pearl Harbor, the USAF and HCATT Test Microgrids for Military Needs

At Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Power Technology Office and the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies have initiated the design of the Pacific Energy Assurance and Resiliency Laboratory (PEARL) – a renewable energy microgrid laboratory that is part of an ongoing effort to demonstrate new ways in which military facilities can meet their own energy needs.

According to the Air Force, PEARL will enable researchers to evaluate renewable energy generation, storage, and control technologies by demonstrating new variances of hydrogen fuel cell, gasification/waste-to-energy, and wind turbine technologies, in addition to new battery and photovoltaic (solar) systems. Mission assurance and cybersecurity also are critical facets of the project.

Under a cooperative agreement with AFRL, HCATT awarded a $1.5 million contract to Kansas City-based architect and engineering firm Burns & McDonnell to begin initial design efforts on the PEARL project, located at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Key project partners – among them, HCATT, AFRL, HawaiiI Air National Guard, the National Guard Bureau, Air Force Civil Engineering Center, MilTech, and Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii – recently joined in the design proposal review of the first of six planned microgrids. The grids intend to meet Air Force energy assurance and resiliency objectives for the HIANG 154th Wing. 

“Microgrids are an important piece of the energy puzzle in terms of providing secure and reliable energy for DoD installations,” said Kevin Spitzer, the AFRL program manager, in an AF press release. “They provide a measure of energy assurance to guard against natural disaster, cyber threats, and disruptions in power, helping to ensure continued operations.”

The Air Force is increasing its focus on microgrid technologies in an effort to achieve new levels of energy resiliency for military installations. Spitzer said microgrids such as PEARL support the Air Force’s over-arching energy goals to improve resiliency, optimize demand, and assure ensure supply. Additionally, they can help reduce fossil fuel use, minimize solid waste, and lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with military operations.

The PEARL project also complements the State of Hawaii’s mandated transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

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