Stand-alone power

Raytheon helps US military bases go off the grid with renewable energy

 wind turbines

One of many wind turbines that provide energy to power Otis Air National Guard base on Cape Cod.

The one thing a military base can’t lose is its power.

Yet every one of the hundreds of domestic bases depends on the U.S. energy grid, as vulnerable to cyber attack, weather disruption or equipment failure as the neighborhood coffee shop. Or your home.

So the military is turning to microgrids – self-contained networks fed by renewable resources like wind or solar power – for true energy independence. Raytheon, whose systems run an award-winning microgrid at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, just completed a microgrid design for the U.S. Navy’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor/Hickham in Hawaii, and is helping to build a system at the Otis Air National Guard base in Massachusetts.

“We’re helping the military prove that it can keep base activities running independent of the external power grid,” said Dave Altman, Raytheon's principal investigator for the Otis project.

Located on wind-swept Cape Cod, the project goal is to provide greater security and economic value from Otis's wind turbine and other local energy sources.

“We’ll be able to increase the number of buildings that have backup power from five to 34 and eliminate the need for several standby generators,” said Altman. “The economics work because they’ll be cutting down on their electricity costs and sending electricity back to the New England grid. The net gain will be several hundred thousand dollars annually.”   

Other microgrids commonly use diesel generators or solar for off-grid power. Otis will be one of the first to rely primarily on wind and batteries, and the current project serves as a valuable test case.  

“When complete, the microgrid will give us energy independence with a high degree of security, while meeting our renewable energy goals,” said Major Shawn Doyle, deputy base civil engineer and energy project manager at Otis. 

For microgrids to work, they need to manage moment-by-moment fluctuations in power as it is generated and used. For example, when “islanded,” or disconnected from the public grid, can the facility meet its energy demands from renewable sources, or does it need to tap backup power?

That’s where Raytheon’s Integrated Power and Energy Management Controller comes in. IPEM is the brain that coordinates the supply of electricity from local microgrid assets like wind, solar, battery storage or generators, and matches it with building loads.

The controller allows base energy managers to seamlessly disconnect and reconnect to the grid. The system displays real-time energy consumption, so managers can reduce non-essential energy uses and maximize the power available for critical activities, such as communicating with globally deployed forces or controlling aircraft takeoffs and landings. 

The physical wiring and plumbing in a microgrid presents another level of security risk. Facility managers  need to know they are protected from cyber attacks that exploit the always-on, always-connected internet of things.

At the Otis facility, this means establishing a cybersecure connection to the local energy supplier. The facility is becoming one of the first military bases to use the Department of Defense’s new Risk Management Framework, or RMF, for securing utility and operational infrastructure.

“With an external connection, it’s critical to reduce vulnerabilities arising from networked energy control systems,” said John Butler, the Raytheon engineer designing the Otis cyber architecture.

The RMF process ensures the amount of rigor used to apply security requirements matches the impact to operations or cost savings if part of the system were compromised. For DoD environments, systems are hardened according to strict standards. Security devices are tested and certified by independent labs.

“We use a defense-in-depth approach, which means layering many types of security mechanisms, including physical, logical and administrative controls,” said Butler. “That way, if an outer layer is successfully attacked, the overall system has a better chance of withstanding the breach.”

The controller and the cybersecurity combined help military bases realize the economic value of microgrids and move closer to energy self-sufficiency.

Published On: 05/03/2017
Last Updated: 01/26/2018