GE gets federal contract to make Marine base electric grid smarter

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded GE Global Research a 2-year, $2 million contract to improve t

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded GE Global Research a 2-year, $2 million contract to improve the way the world’s largest Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., cultivates its own energy.

The base in California is two-thirds the size of Rhode Island — almost a city unto itself, according to GE spokesman Patrick Jarvis.

“What we’re doing is taking their existing microgrid and making it smarter. We want to reduce their fuel burn — their expense of power — to help save the country money and help save them money and help them use all their resources at their most efficient level,” Jarvis said.

Researchers at GE Global Research in Niskayuna will develop the new system with advanced algorithms and computational decision engines in a microgrid controller built by GE Digital Energy.

Since microgrids are basically self-contained systems, they have potential for enabling a higher penetration of clean, renewable power sources into the electrical distribution network, according to GE.

U.S. military bases typically manage power by generating it on-site or connecting to the larger electrical grid network in surrounding civilian areas.

For national security, they must be able to operate without interruption through power outages and similar disturbances, according to Jarvis.

The contract for the Twentynine Palms project includes designing and implementing a smart energy management system that will make on-site power generation and energy storage installations better — all while interacting with the regional electrical grid more efficiently. The system will also enhance the way renewable energies like solar used to power the microgrid are integrated.

GE says the project will serve as a model for other military bases and show how similar types of facilities, such as industrial complexes and universities, can take advantage of a smarter grid.

The $2 million contract will be awarded through stimulus funds coming out of the Department of Defense budget, continuing the stream of research and development in microgrids GE has completed in recent years for the U.S. and Canadian governments.

The two-year research program is only weeks away from being launched, Jarvis said. GE and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) office at the Department of Defense are in the process of finalizing the contract, which was announced Wednesday.

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