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Engineering firm completes design for US military microgrid

Burns & McDonnell ends design phase of project which marks DOD's first step towards building microgrids

The project marks the US military’s first towards developing microgrids

The design has been completed of a microgrid project for the US military. Kansas firm Burns & McDonnell has received approval from Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii to begin construction of the project, which is the US military’s first step to developing microgrids.  

The Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) Phase I project is the first step in the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) by the Departments of Defence (DOD), Energy (DOE), and Homeland Security (DHS) to develop energy surety microgrids.

The JCTD focuses on increasing reliability in serving critical loads, while simultaneously reducing fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Phase I will provide a circuit level microgrid to improve reliability of a single critical facility load. When implemented, a cyber-secure microgrid will optimise the use of existing generation assets, including renewable energy sources and energy storage.

The Burns & McDonnell microgrid solution for JBPHH is built on the concept defined by Sandia National Laboratories. It incorporates additional functionality while solving real world electrical distribution challenges faced when energising a medium voltage network. These challenges include controlling inrush currents to transformers connected to the microgrid and providing a ground reference for the medium voltage system where none existed.

Burns & McDonnell was awarded the SPIDERS Phase I design-build project on December 2, 2011. Since the contract award, Burns & McDonnell has completed the design, procurement of long-lead equipment, construction planning, and development of the cyber security plan to obtain Authority to Operate the SPIDERS control network in accordance with the aggressive project schedule.

During the microgrid design phase, the team faced several challenges including discovery of differing site conditions and changes in the Government-furnished energy storage system that will be integrated into the microgrid. Despite these challenges and the aggressive project schedule, the company is on track to complete construction and system integration and perform technical demonstration activities before the year's end, on budget and ahead of the contracted schedule.

"Our biggest concerns starting this project were finding ways to attain the benefits of the research component of the RDT&E efforts within the constraints of a fixed price military construction project and to satisfy the diverse objectives of the high number of government stakeholders involved in the JCTD," said Dave Barr, Burns & McDonnell project manager. "However, we have been able to finalise a design that satisfies stakeholders' expectations. Everyone involved has remained committed to delivering a microgrid that benefits JBPHH operations as well as long-term DOD and DOE objectives to improve mission assurance for our military."

In order to maximise the value of the Phase I project, the Burns & McDonnell solution goes beyond the requirements of Phase I to provide a recipe for future installations to follow without additional cost to the government.

Although Phase I is supposed to be the "crawl" stage of the JCTD crawl-walk-run implementation strategy, the JBPHH microgrid power and control solution will provide a test bed for nearly all of the future SPIDERS phases' demonstration objectives. This includes paralleling dispersed generation assets over a control network, testing the limits of unity power factor renewable energy penetration on the microgrid, and measuring the cost effectiveness of battery storage as a means to smooth the variability of renewable generation assets.