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Microgrid Innovation Advances through Demonstration and Deployment at MCAS Miramar

A photo of a brown camouflage shirt with the words U.S. Marines on the pocket. Photo by: Cpl. Raquel Barraza.

Transforming technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace is a multifaceted challenge. Through a continuous improvement loop of analysis, research, development, demonstration, deployment, and market feedback, NREL is improving the design and accelerating the deployment of microgrid systems.

Microgrids are small power systems that can operate either independently or while connected to a larger utility grid. They can serve areas as small as a few houses to larger military installations. Military bases seeking reliable and secure energy are including microgrids as part of their overall energy independence and energy security strategies. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar), located north of San Diego, California, is working in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to supply critical military missions with resilient and renewable power through the use of microgrids.

In 2008, as part of a net zero energy project, NREL supported MCAS Miramar with the development and installation of distributed renewable energy systems. Soon after installation, NREL began working on how to utilize them not just for renewable energy but also for energy security. In 2011, a blackout in San Diego left MCAS Miramar without power for about 8 hours and highlighted the need for increased energy security. NREL and MCAS Miramar, in partnership with Raytheon and Primus Power, won an ESTCP grant to develop a small microgrid at Miramar. This included performing system-level testing and verification of a simulated microgrid in the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) on the NREL campus prior to deployment at Miramar. The NREL team was able to demonstrate the actual performance of the MCAS Miramar installation and refine its operation prior to it being successfully installed in the field.

NREL has since performed similar verifications for organizations such as Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, and Wyle, which is developing a standalone microgrid system called the Consolidated Utility Base Energy System for the U.S. Army.

Leveraging feedback and lessons learned from both the simulated grid testing and the pilot installation at MCAS Miramar, NREL is continuing to drive microgrid innovation and advance marketplace adoption by:

  • Working with Miramar to build the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) most advanced installation scale microgrid
  • Working with Raytheon to deploy a microgrid project at Joint Base Cape Cod
  • Working with Honeywell on microgrid deployment at the Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai
  • Developing a methodology to value energy security
  • Supporting community microgrid development in New York
  • Utilizing microgrids to increase rural electrification with renewable energy in Asia and Africa.

NREL's military connection with the DoD and the installations at MCAS Miramar are just one example of how NREL is moving and improving technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace through a continuous loop of analysis, research, development, demonstration, deployment, and market feedback.

Additional Information

Learn more about microgrid design.