Air Force Bases Take the Load Off Commercial Grid during Severe Winter Storm

  • Published
  • By Leslie Irwin
  • SAF/IEE Installation Energy

With freezing temperatures recently testing the limits of commercial power across the central United States, Air Force installations stepped up to lessen grid loads and support the energy needs of surrounding communities.

“As severe weather events like this winter storm become more common, our installations must be prepared to meet the needs of not only the mission, but also the installation and civilian population whenever possible.” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety, and Infrastructure Mr. Mark Correll. “I commend our installations for ensuring continuity of mission operations, while working with our community partners towards energy conservation.”

Having the capability to produce their own backup power can be critical to ensuring mission assurance and safety at an installation. That same backup power can be used to reduce an installation’s reliance on the commercial grid during emergencies, enabling utilities to continue providing power and heat to local communities. Several impacted installations did just that, switching to generator power to reduce the local utilities’ grid load.

Joint Base San Antonio transitioned its Brooke Army Medical Center to generator power, aiding utility CPS Energy in their power conservation efforts across San Antonio, Texas with zero impact to its ongoing inpatient care and trauma missions.

Altus Air Force Base (AFB) made successful use of a 9 megawatt (MW) Interactive Distribution Generation unit that delivers reliable on-site power, allowing the base to disconnect from the grid. This maneuver offered 4.5MW of relief to WFEC to supply power to the rest of Altus, Oklahoma with minimal load shedding between February 14-18.

A third example came from Offutt AFB, reducing their power requirement by 6 MW, or enough power for 3,900 homes, to ease the electric load to surrounding Omaha, Nebraska. This was enabled with the use of emergency power plants and generators at multiple facilities on base, including a new command and control center.  

In all of these instances, it came down to base civil engineers and wing commanders having robust knowledge of the energy resources each installation required for continued operation, enabling them to extend that support to their communities.