Advanced renewable energy microgrid project hosted at Kirtland

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Austin J. Prisbrey
  • Kirtland Public Affairs

A ribbon cutting ceremony took place for the Gathering Space; the new community center which is a centerpiece in the ongoing advanced microgrid renewable energy technology project.

The Gathering Place serves people in temporary living facilities and Kirtland’s Family Camp.

The microgrid technology networks six duplex buildings within TLF, the Gathering Place and a Sandia National Laboratories facility with power generated from solar panels on each of those buildings. The project is part of a cooperative research and development agreement between Emera Technologies and SNL.

“What has been built here is a new way to distribute energy with renewable generation, battery storage, power electronics and controllers at every single building,” said Gary Oppedahl, Emera Technologies vice president of emerging technologies. “Every single building becomes its own unit. When you are looking at resilience, the best way to do it is to have each entity able to support itself.”

While each building is resilient and self-sustaining, the microgrid is still connected to the main power grid. The main power grid and the microgrid mutually benefit each other. When one grid has a surplus or is lacking required energy, the two grids can distribute energy as needed.

“We interact with [the main power grid], creating a big network,” said Oppedahl. “We are hooked to the bulk power grid and we can provide support to the bulk power grid. The bulk power grid can provide support to the microgrid, but if the bulk power grid were to go down, this microgrid would stay on indefinitely with the help of solar and natural gas as a generation as a backup.”

The importance of the micro grid goes beyond being a resilient and sustainable source of energy. With all the different buildings being networked to the microgrid located at the Gathering Place, energy distribution from there can be tested by SNL energy researchers.

“We can now connect the microgrid to resources at Sandia National Laboratories,” said Oppedahl. “[That] means that not only can we show the importance of this kind of a microgrid as a distribution energy source for the future, but we can also do testing on it with [electro-magnetic pulse], lightning, cyber security and new technologies with this [location] being as the base.”

According to U.S. Air Force Col. Juan Alvarez, 377th Mission Support Group commander, the resilient design and purpose of the microgrid goes hand-in-hand with resilient Airmen and their families at Kirtland.

“This is truly amazing,” said Alvarez. “To Emera, to Sandia, thank you for giving us an opportunity to support our families. We talk about what our most important weapon system is in the Air Force; it’s our families and it’s our Airmen. Without them we couldn’t do this mission.”