US Navy Orders Two Portable Backup Battery Systems From Northern Reliability

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The US military operates all over the world, often in places where no electrical grid is available to power its equipment. This situation makes small, portable microgrids — using a combination of solar panels and battery storage — the ideal solution.

transportable battery storage
Image courtesy of Northern Reliability

Northern Reliability of Waterbury, Vermont has been awarded a contract to supply two transportable battery backup systems to the US Navy. The systems will be installed at the Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura County, California, where they will undergo testing as part of the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s data center. Northern was selected to design and build the systems by the project manager, the Electric Power Research Institute located in Palo Alto, California.

Military equipment isn’t just off the shelf stuff you find at the local Radio Shack. It has to be able to move to where it is needed, often across rough seas or terrain. It has to work in bitter cold and blazing heat. It has to be unaffected by high humidity or corrosion from salt. It needs to withstand being dropped by parachute from a helicopter. In other words, it has to be what the military likes to call “ruggedized” so it can take on any battlefield hazards that may come its way and still perform its mission.

“Microgrids installed for backup power on military and non-military sites are currently customized according to each site, which results in costly and, at times, lengthy design and installation time periods. There is a need to demonstrate a standardized microgrid configuration consisting of distributed energy resources easily adaptable to a wide variety of electrical and non-electrical siting requirements,” says Dr. Robert Schainker, principle investigator for EPRI’s military sited microgrid projects in a press release shared with CleanTechnica. “Working with NRI and its containerized battery energy storage system gives us the opportunity to install, operate, and evaluate a standardized microgrid that aims to provide reliability and resiliency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Northern Reliability’s battery electric storage system used NMC lithium ion batteries similar to those used in its traditional grid scale storage systems but for the Navy, additional cooling capacity has been added to the containers the batteries are installed in to insure they will not overheat even under the most demanding, high heat situations. The first two system will be delivered in early 2020 for testing under real world conditions to gain a better understanding of capital and maintenance costs when integrated into a ‘seamless’ backup electric power microgrid.

After testing the microgrid with battery storage, the system will be moved and reconnected to support a Navy data center as part of the tests of the system’s transportability. Data obtained on the costs, performance, and benefits of the overall microgrid project will help support future commercial deployments of microgrids for military and non-military applications.

The batteries supplied by Northern Reliability are capable of delivering 250 kW of power for up to 4 hours. They are mounted in transportable shipping containers that are fitted with Navy-approved supplemental fire protection components and incorporate an innovative lithium-ion battery cell off-gas detection device which is integrated with the fire protection/suppression system.

“Unlike fixed-site energy storage, transportable energy storage systems afford both utilities and developers a wide range of possible applications and bring to the table a whole variety of options for electric blackout recovery, disaster recovery, and weather/fire storm response,” said Jay Bellows, NRI’s President & CEO.

“For our military, mobile microgrids with energy storage offer a readily available, quiet power and energy reserve for military decision makers to use during day-to-day operations. This solution provides customers with reliable power, keeps our troops safer, enables operational flexibility, and provides the effective integration of modern-day renewable resources with legacy assets like backup diesel generators, wherever needed.”

Microgrids are becoming more common, but the idea of transportable microgrids is relatively new. They could be just the thing for disaster relief operations where the conventional power grid has been disrupted or destroyed.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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