Microgrids — essentially mini, self-contained power grids that often need independent power generation and storage — are of particular interest to the military. Military bases are largely in remote locations and have to be prepared for events that could potentially separate them from the greater power grid. That’s why GE says it has snagged $2 million in stimulus funds from the Department of Defense to build a smart microgrid demo project at the world’s largest U.S. Marine Corps base, Twentynine Palms Base in Twentynine Palms, near Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.
For the Marine microgrid, GE will develop software and deploy its microgrid controllers to enable the base to more efficiently use local power generation, including renewable energy sources like solar, as well as maintain energy storage devices. The management system will also enable the microgrid to connect with and disconnect from the surrounding grid when necessary. John Kern, manager of GE’s Smart Grid Research Lab, said in a statement that the microgrid project “will serve as a model for other bases and it also will demonstrate how similar types of facilities, such as industrial complexes and universities, can take advantage of a smarter grid.”
Microgrids are interesting because they can offer a testbed for emerging technologies (GigaOM Pro, sub required) like various forms of energy storage and grid-connected renewable energy sources. But unlike GE’s other smart grid projects, the Marine microgrid won’t be using GE’s smart meters or home energy management systems to reduce individual’s energy consumption. The $2 million in federal funds also won’t be coming from the much-talked-about smart grid stimulus funds from the Department of Energy, but GE has accessed funds from the stimulus for the Department of Defenses’ Environmental Security Technology Certification Program.