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How to Build a Power Base

Raytheon tech points the way to independent energy

A solar panel gathers sunlight to provide energy to the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns)

In the San Diego neighborhood of Miramar, the Marines are getting off the grid.

The local Marine Corps Air Station, depicted in the movie "Top Gun," may soon be able to unplug from California’s power network thanks to a microgrid partly built with Raytheon technology.

An independent energy system, the microgrid has roots in Raytheon’s long history of innovations in managing power. Many of the company’s products incorporate ingenious energy systems, from battery packs that can supply entire neighborhoods to electric gun systems that produce enough power to hurl projectiles at seven times the speed of sound.

Microgrids help guard against power interruptions from natural disasters, security threats or other causes, and reduce environmental impact. Much of the Miramar system was developed by Raytheon engineers Ryan Faries and Dave Altman, working with a company team. 

“We were looking at alternative energy sources for large radars,” explained Altman. “We saw a potential application for fixed sites that needed reliable backup energy.”

Such fixed sites include large-scale facilities like the project at Miramar, as well as military forward-operating bases, or FOBs, and civilian facilities such as remote telecommunications stations.

The Miramar air station received the 2015 Environmental Protection Agency Federal Green Challenge award for having the greatest percentage reduction in energy use of nearly 400 federal sites. Its microgrid, produced by partners that include Raytheon and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, relies on Raytheon's Intelligent Power and Energy Management (IPEM) Microgrid Controller to keep electricity flowing while managing renewable sources such as solar panels. A battery system built by Primus Power stores power to ensure a continuous flow of electricity.

 “When the grid goes down, you still need power,” said Sheri Nevins, Raytheon energy storage manager, adding that battery backup systems "help make renewable energy smooth and manageable."

The microgrid makes it more practical to use energy from alternative sources. “The U.S. military has set goals to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels and better manage its fuel demand,” said Curt Mitchke, Raytheon’s senior manager for energy storage. Among those goals: The Navy is planning to use alternative sources to supply more than 50 percent of the energy requirements at shore-based facilities like Miramar by 2020.

Raytheon engineers Scott Baron and Ryan Faries test the Intelligent Power and Energy Management control system on a simulated microgrid at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Raytheon produces a number of technologies that incorporate sophisticated power management, including:

• Raytheon turnkey energy storage systems that use zinc-bromine flow batteries and directly integrate with renewable energy sources, generators, microgrids and the grid. Raytheon’s cabinet-sized RK10 and larger RK30 storage systems can produce from 5 to 30 kilowatts of electricity – enough to run a neighborhood of 16 homes.

 • Silicon-carbide power components that can withstand tremendous temperatures and power loads, making them ideal for controlling jet engines and other aircraft systems.

• Railgun power. Raytheon has designed a “pulse-forming network” for the U.S. Navy’s electric railgun program. Railguns use magnetic pulses to accelerate projectiles to seven times the speed of sound and hurl them more than 200 miles.

Fast and clean

Microgrids allow facilities to operate independently of the larger power grid. They conserve fuel, cut generator run times, and allow energy generated by unpredictable sources like wind and sunshine to be instantly available.

 “Storage systems can supply immediate power,” said Garth Corey, an energy storage expert and former principal member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories. “Raytheon’s very capable systems…can be set up to fit practically any need that customers have.”

Another important factor is speed. “You want the power from the microgrid to be the same quality as what you can get from the utility,” said Raytheon’s Faries. “That means you need to monitor the load and decide where the energy will come from, and if necessary, switch the energy source 60 times a second.”

That’s where the IPEM controller comes in. It adjusts the power level to match the load at any given moment, maximizing the time the system can run before the batteries are depleted.

Raytheon also offers cybersecurity protection for power plants, electrical grids and other critical infrastructure.

“Energy control systems need protection against hackers and cyber infiltration,” said Vince Fogle, a security engineer at Raytheon. “We’re working to ensure IPEM hardware and software can meet Department of Defense requirements for cybersecurity.” 

Cyber crime is ubiquitous, according to Nicole Dean, director of cyber programs for Raytheon Corporate U.S. Business Development.

"Raytheon tries to build cybersecurity into everything we do, simply because everything has become Internet-connected," she said, adding that much of the technology is created to ensure products are resilient in the face of cyber attacks. "The idea is that if you have a major cyber attack, you can continue working and keep everything functional."

Integrating multiple technologies for projects like the microgrid is a welcome engineering challenge. As Faries puts it, “We get to work with the best minds in Raytheon and in the industry, design a renewable energy solution … and make sure it works for the customer.”

Published: 03/19/2015

Last Updated: 06/14/2016

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