Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't Forget the DSB and the Brittle Grid Problem Facing DOD Installations

Eighteen months have now passed since the public release of the DOD energy security bible, otherwise known as the Defense Science Board task force report on energy: "More Tooth, Less Tail"

I submit this post now, following recent energy conferences by the Army and Marines and with a Navy conference underway, to remind readers of how far we have to go with facilities vis a vis the brittle grid problem called out by the task force. Meeting energy efficiency and sustainability mandates is one thing; providing true mission assurance by reducing or eliminating bases' near total reliance on their local electric utilities is quite another. From page 54 on "Managing Risks to Installations":
For various reasons, the grid has far less margin today than in earlier years between capacity and demand. The level of spare parts kept in inventory has declined, and spare parts are often co-located with their operational counterparts putting both at risk from a single act. In some cases, industrial capacity to produce critical spares is extremely limited, available only from overseas sources and very slow and difficult to transport due to physical size.

In many cases, installations have not distinguished between critical and non-critical loads when configuring backup power systems, leaving critical missions competing with non-essential loads for power. The Task Force finds that separating critical from noncritical loads is an important first step toward improving the resilience of critical missions using existing backup sources in the event of commercial power outage. The confluence of these trends, namely increased critical load demand, decreased resilience of commercial power, inadequacy of backup generators, and lack of transformer spares in sufficient numbers to enable quick repair, create an unacceptably high risk to our national security from a long-term interruption of commercial power.
Energy efficiency is an essential demand reduction component and has to continue to be pursued relentlessly. But bringing true microgrid islanding capabilities and mass storage to each DOD facility ... that's the true challenge of the next few years. Let's get on it.

Next post will be on a Marine Corps microgrid pilot at Twentynine Palms.

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