The Mission Criticality of Energy — Enhancing survivability and recovery for installations
By Randy J. Monohan — Energy Projects Officer
Marine Corps Installations Command, Facilities Operations and Energy (GF-1)
Resilient supplies of energy are critical to an installation’s mission, yet many Marines take a secure and steady supply of energy for granted. Our installations are competing with civil sector energy needs, experiencing extreme weather events, connecting to a fragile and outdated commercial grid, and facing energy system impacts from both deliberate cyber interdiction and manmade accidents. As the National Defense Strategy makes clear, the homeland is no longer a sanctuary. In response to threats and the growing need to increase Marine Corps energy resilience, the Marine Corps Installations Command recently set a 14-day goal for energy independent operations for bases and mission-critical buildings. By achieving this goal, an installation will ensure that if the power goes out, the Marine Corps ability to generate combat power remains uninhibited and that critical mission inputs remain operational.
The Marine Corps recognizes that innovation is the road to resilience and is focusing on energy resilience projects and technologies to help installations harden energy distributions systems, survive in the event of significant or complete loss of electrical service, and to recover faster from any disturbances. By recognizing and investing in innovative resilience and security projects and technologies capable of responding to disruptions in the energy supply chain, the Marine Corps will improve its ability to achieve critical missions, better equip Marines for forward operations, and will heighten overall U.S. operational resilience.
Resilience is an Attitude
Resilience as an idea is intrinsic to the Marine Corps. Marines are trained to be resilient and self-sufficient in diverse combat situations, responding swiftly to risks and adapting to a variety of environments. The resilience of Marines sets them apart and allows them to complete the mission even when threatened. It is important to bring this same ethic of resilience to installation energy operations.
The Marine Corps is instilling energy consciousness in its Marines, civilians, and organizations, with a focus on personal energy behavior. The Marine Corps’ Energy Ethos is the shared vision that the efficient use of energy resources is a critical component of mission readiness. A successful Marine Corps Energy Ethos will ensure a secure and resilient 14- day supply of energy and water to support the operating forces, their mission, and their families. Energy Ethos serves as a foundation for installation energy culture, emphasizing the value of our energy supplies and connection between user-controlled energy efficiencies and warfighting capability and battlefield survivability.
The Energy Ethos naturally incorporates resilience; after all, the core of the Ethos is energy’s ability to support the mission. If we do not have a secure, resilient energy supply, that mission is under threat. The installation and facility systems that provide and use energy resources need to be resilient to meet the expectations that the Energy Ethos demands and to provide the mission support that the Marine Corps requires. Several installations are already putting the Energy Ethos into practice. Now, all Commands need to recognize the importance of resilience and work together to achieve it. Accomplishing this feat goes beyond just investing in reliable power sources. Achieving resilience includes assessing the energy security of critical facilities and training essential personnel to ensure operations could continue under duress, even using limited energy supplies. On our installations, several parties need to work together, from Public Works departments and Mission Assurance, to Facilities and Maintenance and tenant Commands — even information and cyber security organizations with an interest in energy and water controls systems. Ensuring we apply the correct energy resilience solutions in the way that best benefits the mission requires careful collaboration.
Marine Corps Installations Seeing Benefits of Resilience Projects
The commercial electric grid, which the Marine Corps does not operate or control, typically supplies installation energy. Using commercial grids as the primary — and sometimes, only — energy supplier for Marine Corps installations comes with several risks, including unanticipated power outages, inclement weather, operational errors or accidents, and potential physical or cyber-attacks. Sometimes, the solutions and risk mitigations are simple. For example, the Marine Corps carried out an Energy Resilience Exercise at an administrative building. The exercise found that a portion of mission-critical computer equipment was connected to outlets that were not powered by the emergency generator. If there were a power outage and the generator kicked in, the equipment that the unit needed to continue operations still would not have power. This easy, low-tech exercise increased resilience and illustrates the importance of Marines coming together to prepare.
In other situations, solutions may be more complicated. Energy supply and distribution often represent a Single Point of Failure (SPOF) in terms of continuity of mission. To address a SPOF, Marine Corps bases have begun using a mix of microgrids, renewable energy, and backup generators to combat the threat of a grid outage. In a few locations, the bases are already seeing the benefits.
Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma
At MCAS Yuma, home to the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, a 25-megawatt (MW) backup power plant connected to a microgrid went online in February 2017. In operating the F-35 or another aircraft requiring similar airfield operational support, losing power and the down-time it causes is not an option. Without steady and clean power supplies, computer programs cannot function and this means grounded aircraft and mechanical system malfunctions. The new plant produces enough electricity from generators to power the entire base in case of an outage. Maj. Gen. John J. Broadmeadow, former Commander of Marine Corps Installations Command, said at the groundbreaking, “This project will make MCAS Yuma 100% resilient to external grid failures, and is an example of an effort that will ensure our bases remain at the forefront of the defense of the country.”
Arizona Public Service (APS) constructed the microgrid through an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL), where the utility constructed, owns, and manages the microgrid that was built within MCAS Yuma’s fence-line. The microgrid is connected to the utility’s substation and can protect both MCAS Yuma and other local APS customers on the Yuma grid. Since going live, the microgrid has started up nearly 60 times, preventing and mitigating impacts that could have damaged both the mission and the surrounding community. “The system constantly monitors the power grid in real time and can see fluctuations in frequency,” explained David Morton of APS. “When it notices something that could cause harm to the base, it automatically starts 25 MW of power from a dead stop, to a full load powering into the grid, in just 15 seconds.” MCAS Yuma can remain mission ready because of this newly patented technology that provides all systems on base uninterrupted power in times of energy disruption.
While MCAS Yuma’s microgrid arose out of a need to support mission readiness, it has also provided the base and utility with substantial benefits. The structure of the EUL means that the Department of Defense (DoD) did not need to fund the project and was able to lease the underutilized land where the microgrid is installed to the utility instead. APS continues to sustain the land, so the DoD saves on the maintenance and monitoring, and can instead devote time and personnel to mission-critical work.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island
MCRD Parris Island has plans to install a variety of new energy systems to help reduce the installation’s dependence on the commercial grid and diversify its energy sources, increasing the base’s energy security and resilience. MCRD Parris Island entered into a $91.1M, 22.5-year term Energy Savings Performance Contract with an energy service company that bundles long-term payback resilience measures with shorter-term payback standard efficiency upgrades (e.g. LED lighting and HVAC upgrades). The energy projects are scheduled for completion in spring of 2019 and will include the installation of a 3.5MW cogeneration plant, 3.5 MW of backup steam generators, and 5.6 MW of solar energy. The new on-site solar photovoltaic generation is installed in two locations at MCRD Parris Island: in solar carport form on a large parking lot used for boot camp graduation and as an array on an old airstrip. The energy produced by these sources can be stored in an 8-megawatt hour battery tied into the installation’s microgrid control system, which can monitor and manage energy use while also providing islanding capabilities. The combination of these alternative energy sources will enable the Parris Island training mission to continue or recover, despite potential disruptions.
As part of its mission to provide combat ready expeditionary aviation forces, in June 2016, MCAS Miramar established islanding capability in its Public Works building using a 250-kilowatt (kW) flow battery, a rechargeable battery that stores energy in two tanks of liquid that flow past each other to generate electricity. The flow battery stores power from a 230kW solar-powered microgrid system. This microgrid system uses 100% solar-renewable energy and advanced energy storage technology to provide complete independence from the grid while supplying enough power to cover all the energy the building consumes.
This building-level microgrid is just the beginning. MCAS Miramar is currently constructing an installation-wide microgrid, which will supply on-site resilient power to over 100 mission-critical and essential facilities. This project will leverage the existing landfill gas plant and on-site solar generation combined with new diesel and natural gas generators. All this energy will be controlled and managed at two separate locations to ensure mission success.
The Future of Resilience
Resilience requires parties working together on the installation. The energy, utility, and controls industries and the community must collaborate to identify effective solutions for our many unique installations. Completed projects show that the Marine Corps can — and should — be prepared to provide uninterrupted power in support of the mission. A more energy-resilient Marine Corps is a stronger Marine Corps, capable of training, power projection, operational support, and sustainment of forward deployed forces.
In the future, the Marine Corps plans to support and protect all essential installation assets from threats to the energy supply by providing them with energy security and the technology to be self-sufficient for 14 days. Just as Marines are resilient and face risks in the field, our bases must be resilient to bounce back from risks at home. The Marine Corps is proud to be at the forefront of energy resilience innovation within the DoD.