Micro-Grid Power: Working Intelligently and Working Together


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From Army AL&T Magazine, this article written by Marnie de Jong, Research Project Manager for the Renewable Energy for Distributed Undersupplied Command Environments program in CERDEC CPI Army Power, discusses the concept, challenges, and potential solutions to using the "Micro-Grid" to provide a more economical and available source of power for soldiers in austere environments.

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Micro-Grid Power: Working Intelligently and Working Together

  1. 1. MICRO-GRID POWER Working intelligently and working together by Marnie de Jong LIVING EFFICIENTLY The Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System is a lightweight, portable power system capable of recharging batteries and/or acting as a continuous power source. It combines anti-glint solar panels, connectors, and adaptors for increased charging options, and can charge most common military battery types in five to six hours. (U.S. Army photo.)72 Army AL&T Magazine
  2. 2. SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGYT ihe Army traditionally has addressed power generation through a collection of appli- cation-specific, stand-alonesolutions. But no matter how good theindividual technology, variations in loadslead to inefficiencies in operation. It isnearly impossible to keep generators oper-ating at peak efficiency when they areoperating by themselves. That’s why theright solution is a mix of all technologies.Micro-grid systems are currently the onlysolution that allows the incorporationof multiple technologies, such as renew-ables and energy storage systems, tosupplement traditional power generationtechniques. This allows us to create plat-forms that manage and distribute powerefficiently while using smaller generators.This type of integrated generation anddistribution system is a sustainablepractice that has applicability across allechelons, from the forward operatingbase down to the individual Soldier.A DEVELOPING CONCEPT GETTING SOLUTIONS TO SOLDIERSIn 2007, the Army Power division of the The Reusing Existing Natural Energy from Wind and Solar (RENEWS) system, which leveragesCommunications-Electronics Research, wind generation, solar power, and power storage, is undergoing testing at Communications-Development and Engineering Cen- Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Command, Power, and Integrationter’s Command, Power, and Integration (CERDEC CPI) Directorate (formerly the Command and Control Directorate). The system will beDirectorate (CERDEC CPI), formerly shipped out for user evaluations upon completion of testing. Here, NCOs view the RENEWSthe Command and Control Directorate, system as part of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command’s Quarterly NCO Professional Development program. (U.S. Army photo by Allison Barrow.)in technical support of Project ManagerMobile Electric Power within ProgramExecutive Office Command, Control,and Communications – Tactical, was while reducing maintenance and the logis- Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power Sys-one of the first DoD organizations to tical footprint. tem kit features a photovoltaic panel forwork in this area with the start of the solar charging of multiple batteries, thusHybrid Intelligent (HI) Power pro- This is all transparent to the Soldier; ensuring continuous power for sensorsgram, an initiative funded by the the plug-and-play system has an open, and radios. (See related article on Page 12.)Office of the Secretary of Defense. user-friendly architecture that allows forIts goal is to network generators and greater operational flexibility. The Soldier Power Manager takes this aloads to a common grid to enable source step further by calculating available andand load management, keeping in Earlier versions of this concept, focusing required power and allocating powercheck redundancy of power generation on renewable energy, have been fielded to loads according to availability andand optimizing generator performance at the Soldier level. For example, the priority. It also allows multiple power A S C . A R M Y. M I L 73
  3. 3. MICRO-GRID POWER generation sources to be hooked up LOOKING AHEAD Power Equipment System (SWIPES) is simultaneously, using energy based on a Most micro-grids centralize the intelli- a first-generation example of where we predetermined set of energy costs. gence (see Figure 1), but CERDEC CPI are going. SWIPES incorporates a vari- is working to make all of the devices ety of pouch-mounted chargers and The Reusing Existing Natural Energy smart so that each piece of the grid can power cables for batteries, GPS units, from Wind and Solar (RENEWS) communicate and operate in an intel- shot detection systems, and handheld system, which leverages wind genera- ligent manner: smart generators, smart communications within the Modular tion, solar power, and power storage, is storage, and smart renewables. This col- Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment undergoing performance and safety lection of autonomous systems would (MOLLE) vest. This provides power and testing at CERDEC CPI. Once this have the capability to determine which protection for extended missions without testing is successfully completed, the source is delivering power to a given load the burden of power source swaps or sep- RENEWS systems will be shipped out and what to do if there is excess energy. arate power source charging. for user evaluations. The next step would be incorporating With these combined capabilities, the Next up is Renewable Energy for smarts into the loads so that they can Soldier has a highly versatile system that Distributed Undersupplied Command request power as well. That would pave is easy to use, greatly reduces the num- Environments (REDUCE), a new mis- the way toward additional fuel reduc- ber of batteries carried, and can save 30 sion program in FY12 that is geared tion by allowing the scheduling of loads to 50 percent of battery weight on long toward operating in the 1 to 5 kilowatt to keep peak power demands at a mini- missions. But while SWIPES provides power space. The program focuses on mum. That said, with the large number the distribution for the Soldier, it doesn’t incorporating renewables and energy of power-consuming systems in the have the smarts to control all of the dif- storage on a trailer that can be towed by Army, implementing a solution like this ferent loads and sources, nor to provide a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled is still a ways off. The idea is to go after the Soldier an interface for situational Vehicle and can interface with traditional the larger power consumers, such as the awareness of remaining power. We JP-8 fueled generators. Environmental Control Units, then move are not there yet, but that is where we forward. This type of fully automated are heading. As with HI Power, the goal of REDUCE system would require less training and is to make things easier on the Soldier by oversight than currently fielded systems, CONCLUSION letting the systems manage all the power. thus freeing up troops to do other tasks. The shift to micro-grids represents a Ideally, the technologies from both pro- change in the way we do business, but it grams will be complementary, resulting CERDEC CPI is also working on incor- is more than intelligent control and dis- in power grid technology that addresses porating smart grids into wearable Soldier tribution of power. In order to be really power generation, distribution, loads, platform technologies, to reduce the successful, systems will need to be able to renewables, and storage across the full weight and number of batteries on each work intelligently with one another. The Army power spectrum. Soldier. The Soldier Wearable Integrated key is to produce a solution that works for everyone across the military services. No matter how good my system is, if my MICRO-GRID SYSTEMS ARE CURRENTLY THE ONLY system can’t talk to yours, we still have interoperability issues. SOLUTION THAT ALLOWS THE INCORPORATION All of these systems have played a part OF MULTIPLE TECHNOLOGIES, SUCH AS in the learning process. We’ve been able to develop numerous point-based micro- RENEWABLES AND ENERGY STORAGE grid solutions that are specific to size, platform, and application. But we’ve yet SYSTEMS, TO SUPPLEMENT TRADITIONAL to establish a common operating environ- ment for micro-grids within DoD—and POWER GENERATION TECHNIQUES. this is important. We need an integrated74 Army AL&T Magazine
  4. 4. SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGYeffort whereby A plugs into B, whichplugs into C, and systems can grow or Desired Performance Attributesdecrease with the changing demands ofthe environment—scalable micro-grids. Figure 1All of our previous work has paved theway for scalable micro-grids, whichallow users to add units, whether 20or 100, without changing technologies,platforms, or cables. Basically this is amatter of applying the smart-grid archi-tecture from the Soldier platform up tothe tactical operations center. Scalablemicro-grids can affect size, weight, andpower by decreasing weight while pow-ering the same amount of equipment,and will dramatically reduce fuel logis-tics—especially with the incorporationof renewable technologies.In addition to developing a proof-of-concept system with specifications, weare hoping to establish working groups ofDoD and industry in this arena—or useexisting groups—but coordination acrossthe two communities is a major challenge.The Power Sources 2012 conferenceJune 11-14, in Las Vegas, NV, will focuson energy generation and storage tech-nology for military application. It willbe an opportunity for Joint collabora-tion, as it is sponsored by CERDEC CPIArmy Power and the U.S. Army ResearchLaboratory in conjunction with the U.S.Air Force, U.S. Navy, Defense AdvancedResearch Projects Agency, U.S. Depart-ment of Energy, and NASA. Micro-grid systems allow Army engineers to create platforms that manage and distribute power efficiently while using smaller generators. Most micro-grids centralize the intelligence, but CERDECThe conference (http://powersourcescon- CPI is working to make all the devices smart so that each piece of the grid has the capability toference.com) will feature demonstrations communicate and operate in an intelligent manner. (SOURCE: CERDEC CPI.)and information concerning what we areworking on in regard to scalable micro-grids, and we invite you to participate. for Distributed Undersupplied Command engineering from Pennsylvania State Uni- Environments program in CERDEC versity, and an M.B.A. from the University CPI Army Power. She holds a B.S. in of Maryland. She is Level III certified inMARNIE DE JONG is the Research Proj- electrical engineering from the Univer- systems planning, research, development,ect Manager for the Renewable Energy sity of Delaware, an M.S. in electrical and engineering. A S C . A R M Y. M I L 75