PEARL microgrid project demonstrates new possibilities in military energy resiliency

  • Published
  • By Holly Jordan
  • Air Force Research Laboratory
The Air Force Research Laboratory is leading the way for resilient, cleaner, and cost-competitive energy solutions for military installations.

AFRL’s Advanced Power Technology Office and the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies have initiated the design of the Pacific Energy Assurance and Resiliency Laboratory , or (PEARL), a renewable energy microgrid laboratory that is part of an ongoing effort to demonstrate new ways military facilities can address energy needs.

A microgrid is a small, independently-sourced power system that, although attached to the main power grid, can work independently if necessary, providing a source of electricity if needed without reliance on the main energy supply.

PEARL will allow researchers to evaluate renewable energy generation, storage, and control technologies by demonstrating new variances of hydrogen fuel cell, gasification/waste-to-energy, and wind turbine technologies, in addition to new battery and photovoltaic (solar) systems. Mission assurance and cybersecurity are also critical facets of the project.

Under a cooperative agreement with AFRL, HCATT awarded a $1.5 million contract to Kansas City-based architect and engineering firm Burns & McDonnell to begin initial design efforts on the PEARL project, located at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Key project partners, including HCATT, AFRL, HawaiiI Air National Guard, the National Guard Bureau, Air Force Civil Engineering Center, MilTech, and Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii, recently joined in the design proposal review for the first of six planned microgrids. The grids intend to meet Air Force energy assurance and resiliency objectives for the HIANG 154th Wing.

“Microgrids are an important piece of the energy puzzle in terms of providing secure and reliable energy for DoOD installations,” said Kevin Spitzer, the AFRL program manager Kevin Spitzer. “They provide a measure of energy assurance to guard against natural disaster, cyber threats, and disruptions in power, helping to ensure continued operations.”

The Air Force is increasing its focus on microgrid technologies in an effort to achieve new levels of energy resiliency for military installations. Spitzer says Mmicrogrids such as PEARL support the Air Force’s overarching energy goals to improve resiliency, optimize demand, and assure ensure supply. Additionally, they can help reduce fossil fuel use, minimize solid waste, and lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with military operations.

The PEARL project also complements the State of Hawaii’s mandated transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.