What Hawaii’s Microgrids are Teaching Us about Resiliency

Navigant's Peter Asmus discusses U.S. Navy microgrids in an article for GreenBiz

In a recent article in Green Biz, Peter Asmus, research director with Navigant Research, discussed Hawaiian microgrid research, partnerships with the military, and what it all is teaching the utility industry.

According to Navigant Research’s 2017 Microgrids report, military microgrids are likely to reach $1 billion in annual spending by 2026. Much of this spending is happening in two Hawaiian microgrids through the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) program, although the results have shown to been disappointing for resiliency.

SPIDERS is a program created to bolster cybersecurity and energy efficiency of U.S. military installations, while also transferring the knowledge to nonmilitary critical infrastructure. It’s first installations involved several locations including Hawaii and Colorado.

“At the recent VERGE conference in Honolulu, I learned that institutional, cultural, and technological challenges have plagued two microgrids deployed by the U.S. Navy on Oahu,” wrote Asmus. “The good news is that lessons learned from two microgrids — part of the SPIDERS program contracts awarded to Burns and McDonnell — are being applied to a new Pacific Energy Assurance and Resiliency Laboratory microgrid at Pearl Harbor for the Air Force.”

During a workshop at the event, Dan Lougen of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific offered his perspective on the SPIDERS microgrids on Hawaii.

“The primary challenge, he said, was teaching 52-year-old men new tricks with the advanced technologies that make up today’s modern microgrids,” wrote Asmus.

Despite the three SPIDERS microgrids being entirely functional upon completion, operations and maintenance costs (O&M) caused them to sit dormant due to various conflicts.

In one such instance, a password expired in SPIDERS 1 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, resulting in a $4 million asset just sitting there when the owner/operator didn’t seek another. SPIDERS 2 operations were stalled in fort Carson, Colorado, due to ownership policy disagreements, and SPIDERS 3 at Camp Smith in Hawaii was met with state environmental compliance issues.

According to Asmus’ sources, the O&M for microgrids are currently more difficult than construction. However, if maintained in the first place, they could generate millions of dollars annually via peak shaving and other grid services. Many other observed that the SPIDERS projects taught many important lessons.

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