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Otis Microgrid: Cape Cod Military Base To Run Fully On Renewable Energy

A new microgrid on a Cape Cod US Air Force base opens up renewable energy possibilities for the military.

The US Department of Defense’s (DoD) first wind-powered microgrid is nearly ready at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Unveiled on August 29, 2018, by the 102nd Intelligence Wing and project partners, the “grid-connected microgrid” will serve as a model for similar Air National Guard and Department of Defense (DoD) projects. The Otis microgrid is expected to achieve several firsts in microgrid development for the military and New England.

Otis microgrid

A ribbon-cutting ceremony signified how the Otis microgrid — almost exclusively based on renewable energy — will provide for an energy capability while ensuring a high-level of grid security. The Otis microgrid offers economic benefits to both the base and the regional grid by participating in a utility demand-response program and ISO New England’s frequency services market.

The Otis microgrid includes:

  • a 1.5-MW wind turbine
  • a 1.6-MW diesel backup generator
  • an intelligent, 1.6-MW/1.2-MWh lead-acid battery energy storage and management system from East Penn Manufacturing subsidiary, Ecoult
  • a microgrid controller developed and installed by Raytheon, the lead contractor for the project

The energy storage and management system will demonstrate the economics of stacking multiple, battery-based energy storage services, while the controller will optimize on-site energy for maximum efficiency. As an entire package, the Otis microgrid increases value to the Air Force and National Guard as well as state and Federal government through revenue and research opportunities for the energy industry.

Otis microgrid

Image courtesy of DVIDS

Otis Milestones in Microgrid Development

As the very first operational wind-powered microgrid in the DoD and the first to support an entire DoD installation, the Otis Air Force Base microgrid is leading the march for the military and the New England region in renewable energy generation in many ways. It is:

  • the first microgrid in the eastern Massachusetts territory of local utility Eversource and within ISO New England to provide ancillary services
  • the first time a microgrid integrates enough wind power and batteries to meet 100% of the electricity needs, 24×7, at a military base or defense facility
  • the first time a US military facility connects to an independent system operator
  • the first microgrid to leverage a battery-based energy storage system to form a base-wide microgrid completely independent from any utility grid or other external power provider

The Otis microgrid project team is in the final stages of installing, testing, and commissioning the various aspects of the battery energy storage system. Next, it will do the same for the wind turbine and remaining microgrid platform components. If all goes well, the project will enter testing in October, including frequency regulation testing with ISO New England. Full commissioning is slated for December.

The Otis Microgrid’s Role in Base Cyber Security

The Otis Distributed Ground Station Intelligence Group/ DGS Massachusetts conducts reachback analysis – near real-time – to combatant commanders by sensing data from U-2, RQ-4, and MQ-9 aircraft for tactical operations. The Cyber-Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group provides analysis and awareness of the cyberspace battle mission domain for forces conducting operations and defense of the US.

“The Otis Microgrid provides energy security resilience for these two critical missions, all while ensuring a cyber-secure connection to commercial utilities — which protects our infrastructure from cyber-vulnerabilities,” said Col. Virginia Doonan, the 102nd Intelligence Wing Commander. “It not only provides energy resilience and security, but it is vital to our Wing by ensuring we are of significant value to the United States.”

The Workforce behind the Otis Microgrid

Civil engineer and communications aircorp from the 102nd Intelligence Wing Civil Engineering Squadron and soldiers from the US Army Corps of Engineers’ 249th Engineering Battalion worked closely with Raytheon and other contractors to prepare site locations and for installation of the microgrid’s information and communications network: 3.5 miles of overhead, 3-phase AC power lines, 4.5 miles of dedicated fiber-optic network cabling, and 165 new utility poles.

In total, some 300 individuals from more than 30 military and private-sector organizations are contributing to the project. The units gained valuable training time and experience as a result, which may become quite valuable as the Air National Guard and DoD begin to explore similar projects at other facilities.

Economic Benefits of the Otis Microgrid

The military labor force involved in the microgrid construction reduced costs by $3 – 4 million from the project’s total $8.5 million budget. The team designed the microgrid so that it will pay for itself in 5 years or less and result in an estimated savings-to-investment ratio of 2:1 over its 20-year lifecycle.

Raytheon, the project’s lead private contractor, developed the microgrid control system and saw to all cybersecurity, as well as microgrid design, procurement, and engineering. Customized Energy Solutions is responsible for overall microgrid system optimization and participation in ISO New England’s frequency regulation market. C-Power serves as the intermediary for the microgrid to participate in the utility demand response program.

Project partners expect the microgrid to net the Air National Guard $500,000-$1 million a year, achieved through energy savings and new revenue. A projected $100,000-$200,000 of that will come from reductions in capacity tag savings, which is the amount utility customers are charged for electricity consumption during peak periods of demand. Savings from participating in an Eversource demand response program is expected to amount to about the same.

In addition, the Air National Guard expects the microgrid to generate from $300,000 – $500,000 in annual revenues by participating in ISO New England’s frequency regulation services market. Doonan explained, “These significant cost savings further ensure our long term viability and continued presence in Massachusetts by being a lean operating wing and good stewards of the US taxpayer.”

The Otis microgrid was funded by a $5.7 million grant from the DoD’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), established for leading-edge, environmentally friendly energy technology for the military. The state of Massachusetts contributed another $1 million.

Looking ahead toward the Otis Microgrid online

The Air National Guard will own and operate the microgrid.  A dedicated, digital fiber-optic provides the data and communications the microgrid requires. The microgrid network — which isn’t connected to any Air Force information, communications network, or the public Internet — offers a highly secure, dedicated connection to ISO New England. That’s essential for the Otis microgrid to participate in the regional grid manager’s frequency regulation market.

“This microgrid was a true collaborative process where multiple stakeholders came together to realize the completion of this project,” Doonan added, “allowing an opportunity to test new technologies and ensure that this type of cost savings and energy resilience is easily duplicated through the DoD and the country.”

The Otis microgrid is latest among several military microgrids underway as well as an emerging trend for microgrid development on Cape Cod. Two other local microgrids are in progress.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Community Development Corp (MWCDC) is pursuing energy sovereignty with a solar microgrid, eco-village, and Tribal Utility Authority and to date has received 2 federal grants to support this effort. According to Mark Harding, president of MWCDC, “We have always been proud people who haven’t given up any abilities within our powers. One thing we want to retain is energy sovereignty to create something and not take — to be part of the solution and not the problem.”

The town of Sandwich is also looking toward construction of a microgrid, having received funding from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center earlier this year.

Sources: Microgrid Knowledge and Defense Virtual Information Distribution Service

Images courtesy DVIDS

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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