Skip to main content
Renewable Energy on the Front Lines

Photo provided by Smith Electric Vehicles

Renewable Energy on the Front Lines

In the war on energy waste and pollution, NREL's army model integrates vehicles, renewables and the microgrid.

On the front lines of national security, the Department of Defense (DOD) recognizes that the adoption of renewable energy is vital to reducing dependence on foreign oil, addressing greenhouse gas emissions, and maximizing resources. NREL is working with the DOD and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to integrate solar photovoltaics (PV), plug-in electric vehicles, and microgrid controls at Colorado's Fort Carson Army post. Through the coordination of generators and loads, the Fort Carson microgrid will help ensure uninterrupted electrical delivery to mission-critical facilities. NREL's role is part of the multi-year, multi-agency Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) project, which focuses on improving energy surety for military installations. Funded by the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and the Federal Energy Management Program, the NREL project includes:

Illustration of a solar photovoltaic canopy and plug-in electric vehicle and military transport.

The NREL model integrates a solar photovoltaic canopy, plug-in electric vehicles and a renewable energy management unit.
Illustration provided by NREL

  • Development of vehicle-to-grid communications methods
  • Electric vehicle infrastructure planning
  • Vehicle-to-grid usage scenario development.

"The ability to integrate electric vehicle charging with renewables supports several Army energy security challenges for the future," explains Vince Guthrie, utility programs manager, Fort Carson Directorate of Public Works. "Fort Carson is excited to have NREL developing the tools and systems needed to create value, both in the normal and microgrid operation of electric vehicles."

Designed for Defense Facilities and Civilian Locations

Generating renewable energy onsite using PV arrays and wind turbines is a high priority for DOD facilities. A microgrid that integrates renewable generation and electric vehicle energy storage offers improved energy security, cost savings, and reliability. Proximity of automobiles to infrastructure often makes parking facilities ideal locations for systems connecting electric vehicles, solar energy sources, and microgrids.

Illustration of a solar PV plug-in fueling station that would operate on a micro-grid.

Charging stations will feed power to and from the grid.
Illustration provided by NREL

Future integrated systems may include a PV canopy to shade vehicles while providing energy for the microgrid and charging stations. The charging stations could act as energy management portals, feeding power to and from the grid.

The project's ultimate goals are to minimize fuel consumption, energy cost, and emissions, while maximizing operational duration by integrating renewables, vehicles, the microgrid, and intelligent controls. Functional models of this system could be used to establish similar systems at other DOD installations. This military pilot demonstration, when proven viable, could help the DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy create models for civilian applications.

About NREL's Electric Vehicle Grid Integration Effort

NREL's Electric Vehicle Grid Integration team works with automobile manufacturers, developers, and utilities to accelerate the development of transportation electrification and expand renewable energy generation.

The Utility-Scale Future

Spring 2011 / Issue 1

RSS Subscribe to the RSS feed.

Editorial Team

  • Kim Adams | Managing Editor
  • Bill Gillies | Creative Director
  • Dennis Schroeder | Photographer
  • Jennifer Josey | Editor
  • Michael Oakley | Web Development
  • Amy Glickson | Web Development
  • Email the editor