The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has a strong interest in improving energy security through microgrid technology, stemming from its heavy reliance upon all forms of fossil fuels — often imported from regions of the world hostile to U.S. interests.
Indeed, the DOD's efforts may be the strongest driver for the overall microgrid market, especially in terms of control technology for these smart grid networks based on a bottoms-up distributed model for the U.S. military's operational and tactical deployments of microgrid technology.
According to a new report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant's Energy Practice, the total capacity of DOD microgrids will surpass 600 MW by 2018, a 50 percent increase over 2012.
"In addition to reducing the amount of fossil fuels consumed to create electricity, by networking generators as a system to maximize efficiency, microgrids have a number of other benefits of value to the military," says senior research analyst Peter Asmus. "They can also be used to help integrate renewable energy resources (such as wind and solar) at the local distribution grid level. Simultaneously, microgrids enable military bases — both stationary and forward operating bases — to sustain operations, no matter what is happening on the larger utility grid or in the theater of war."
Many Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and other military-related facilities already have legacy microgrids in place. What is new is that these facilities are looking to envelop entire bases with microgrids and integrate renewable distributed energy generation onsite. When capable of safe islanding from the surrounding grid, renewable distributed energy generation offers the ultimate energy security, since there is no need to transport fuel to generate power.