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 Base, 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 into 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 nationwide.
U.S. military installations consumed 3.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year, enough electricity to power 350,000 households in the United States, according to the 2009 Defense Appropriations Act.
The high cost of the installations is coupled with the need for defense facilities' most vital part to national security, to operate without interruption through power outages and similar disturbances, according to Jarvis.
The contract for the Twentynine Palms Base 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 in a way that works 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 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.