The United States military is once again testing innovative solar technology in the field to improve the safety and capabilities of its personnel on the front lines. This time it's the Air Force, which is testing a mobile, solar-powered microgrid system with energy storage designed by Ideal Power and EnerDel that's currently powering lights and air conditioning systems for 10 forward operating base living quarters in San Antonio, Texas, and could soon be deployed at US Air Force FOB facilities worldwide.
The 8 kilowatt solar array is mounted on tents at the 319th Training Squadron’s Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training (BEAST) facility at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. There it has been undergoing rigorous testing for the past seven months. It is a merging of EnerDel’s Mobile Hybrid Power System (MHPS) with solar power and lithium batteries and Ideal Power’s Multi-port Power Conversion System (30B3). The power conversion system allows the system to provide significant flexibility for users since it can handle electricity running at both 60 hertz and 50 hertz.
"EnerDel is very excited to demonstrate our fourth generation advanced energy storage and conversion technology at an Air Force operated training facility,” said Derrick Buck, engineering director at EnerDel. “The collaboration of the Ideal Power and EnerDel teams allowed for the successful commissioning of our Mobile Hybrid Power System with Ideal Power's power conversion systems. We look forward to expanding our partnership with Ideal Power and continuing the future development of our military/microgrid product portfolio."
In conjunction with the system from Ideal Power and EnerDel, researchers from the Air Force and the University of Dayton Research Institute have launched a year-long project to develop independent and renewable energy producing technology that can power remote and forward operating military facilities.
In the past United States’ forward operating bases were solely powered by diesel generators. As in this case with the Air Force, that's changing.
Diesel-powered generators require convoys of fuel, putting service members' lives at risk. Moreover, they are cumbersome, unreliable and the amount of heat and noise produced increases potential for enemy detection and attack. According to an earlier report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the use of portable PV solar technology and battery storage systems can save lives in the battlefield because they don't need fuel and reduce the need for extremely vulnerable and dangerous resupply missions that have resulted in 3,300 service men and women deaths in 10 years.
“There is a history of successful commercial applications coming out of the military. This installation is a great example of the type of project that can lead to penetration of the large military and microgrid markets in addition to broad applications in a commercial setting, said Bill Alexander, CTO at Ideal Power. “Ordinary solar PV installations can only supply power while the utility grid is up and running. This system supplies power from solar PV independent of the utility grid and points the way towards microgrid-ready solar PV which will supply electricity – with or without utility power – and allow facilities to continue powered operations from battery and/or solar PV after loss of utility power."
As the world’s largest energy user, the US military has sought to reduce its fossil fuel dependence by moving toward widespread renewable energy source development for some time. All four branches have pledged to produce 25 percent of it energy needs from renewable power sources by 2025. Accordingly, the Army has awarded contracts worth $7 billion to renewable power and solar energy providers like SunPower, Johnson Controls and Dominion Energy to expeditiously develop and install solar power arrays at multiple domestic military facilities and are ordered to produce between 100 and 300 megawatts annually.Tweet