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The US Marine Corps gets an advanced microgrid with solar-enabled energy storage for Air Station Miramar, enabling it to survive practically anything


Major Walking Dead Spoiler: Energy Storage For The Zombie Apocalypse

The US Marine Corps gets an advanced microgrid with solar-enabled energy storage for Air Station Miramar, enabling it to survive practically anything

To be honest, this is just a wild guess, but how else do you suppose they kept the lights on for the most awkward dinner party in the world during that last episode of The Walking Dead? Sure, they made a big deal about their ground-mounted solar array, but it looked barely large enough to power one McMansion, let alone a whole gated community full of them. More to the point, where was the energy storage?

The answer has got to be a microgrid with high-penetration renewable energy plus energy storage, which leads us to a zinc bromide flow battery….

energy storage microgrid

Group Hug: Energy Storage For The Zombie Apocalypse

As it happens, US-based Raytheon has just announced the successful test of a microgrid with energy storage and high-penetration renewable energy in the form of a solar array.

The system is a partnership with the companies Primus Power and Advanced Energy, along with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), so group hug all you taxpayers.

The demonstration was designed to show that an off-grid facility could use 100% of the solar energy harvested on site, reducing — and potentially eliminating — the need to burn conventional fuel.

The heart of the system is Primus Power’s EnergyPod®, which is a zinc bromide flow battery. For those of you new to the topic, flow batteries store energy the form of two separate liquids, generating electricity when they flow adjacent to each other. Earlier versions were large and bulky, which limited their use, but next-generation flow batteries are more compact and efficient.

Partly because the two liquids are stored in separate tanks, flow batteries have virtually no exposure to fire hazards and other risks, making them ideal for urban energy storage, as well as energy storage for sensitive facilities.

Speaking of sensitive facilities, here’s a question for all of you Walking Dead fans out there. Let’s say that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta had one of these solar-powered microgrids with zinc flow battery energy storage — would the Last Scientist on Earth still need an excuse to blow the place up?

Energy Storage For The US Military

Also speaking of sensitive facilities, if you’re thinking military use, then go run out and buy yourself a cigar.

The new microgrid was demonstrated at NREL, and the next step in the plan is to give it a spin in the real world, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California.

For more details on the project, we went over to the US Department of Defense’s environmental research programs and looked up Project #EW-201224, “Zinc Bromide Flow Battery Installation for Islanding and Backup Power.”

The general idea is to increase energy security at the base, while also reducing energy consumption and energy costs.

A microgrid with energy storage can save money partly by maximizing the use of on-site energy, in this case solar energy. Depending on the size of the system and the need for power, energy storage also enables you to save money on grid energy costs, by taking advantage of “demand-response” incentives.

Along with our sister site Planetsave, CleanTechnica has been covering a number of new flow battery technologies, so if you’re wondering why they settled on a zinc bromide energy storage system (Zn/Br ESS), here’s the money quote:

…By incorporating innovative Zn/Br charging algorithms, intelligent power management, and simple cell construction, the proposed Zn/Br ESS may demonstrate the low-cost energy storage capable of deep discharge levels, high reliability, scalability, and operational safety needed to realize implementation across DoD facilities.

The Miramar installation is expected to demonstrate that the solar-enabled microgrid will provide seamless backup power when the facility is “islanded” or off grid in case of an emergency. The emergency angle explains why the microgrid system also needs to incorporate smart controls that pare energy consumption down to the minimum.

Energy Storage For Everybody

The Defense Department is looking forward to a successful gig for the system at Miramar, with the expectation that it will serve as a best-practices model for other facilities.

Not for nothing but Miramar has already established itself as a model for self-sufficiency with renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage under the Defense Department’s Net Zero initiative.

Back in 2012 a landfill gas project went online, which at the time provided about 45% of Miramar’s renewable energy. The rest is proved by the base’s existing solar panels along with something they refer to as “special energy and resource-efficient equipment.”

That still only accounted for half the power used at Miramar, with the local San Diego grid making up the balance. The missing piece of the puzzle is energy storage, and it looks like that’s going to be in place sooner rather than later.

It’s also worth noting that the system could work in reverse — if disaster befalls the San Diego grid, Miramar could continue to provide power support to the civilian sector.

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Image credit (screenshot): Microgrid with energy storage courtesy of Primus Power.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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