Mission Resilience: Tracking the DoD’s Strategic Microgrid Initiative

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been making waves in the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) sector with its ambitious initiative to deploy microgrids across its vast network of bases.


With a wide range of benefits, from the ease of scalability to flexible system designs and the ability to island from the primary grid to strengthen resilience, the modern microgrid offers a proven solution for the DoD to fortify energy independence.


Below, we explore the status of the Pentagon’s ambitious microgrid initiative and why these autonomous, controllable energy systems will remain a strategic imperative for years to come.


Opportunities for EPCs


The success of the microgrid initiative not only enhances military capabilities but also presents significant opportunities for EPC professionals to contribute to a more sustainable and secure future while they grow their businesses.


With approximately 450-500 bases domestically and over 200 stationed across 159 countries, the DoD’s microgrid plan will redefine energy resilience and sustainability within the military.


The Pentagon is the country’s largest energy consumer, powering over 280,000 buildings across a staggering 2.3 billion square feet. This energy consumption results in an annual bill exceeding $4 billion and places the DoD as among the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide. These figures underscore the critical need for a robust, resilient, and sustainable energy infrastructure within the military.


In 2011, General David Petraeus bluntly summarized the military’s dependency on power when he said: “Energy is the lifeblood of our warfighting capabilities.”


Recognizing the vulnerability posed by its high energy dependence, the DoD, as mandated by the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act, has taken significant strides to address this issue. In April 2023, the DoD unveiled its first-ever enterprise-wide Plan To Reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions, outlining its strategies to achieve the Biden Administration’s goal of 100% carbon-neutral electricity for all Federal agencies by 2030. This initiative aims to combat climate change and enhance resilience against natural and human-caused disruptions.


Currently, around 90% of key bases worldwide have at least a plan on becoming energy independent, and the Defense Department currently obtains 15.9% of its energy from renewable sources and expects to be at 25% renewable by 2025.


Microgrids: The Key to Energy Resilience


One of the central pillars of the DoD’s emissions reduction plan is the integration of microgrids into its energy infrastructure. These microgrids, capable of on-site clean energy generation and storage, are pivotal in reducing operational and installation energy demand, enhancing resilience, and increasing operational flexibility. The strategic deployment of microgrids aligns with the DoD’s broader goal of achieving energy resiliency across its diverse network of bases.


Tactical Consideration of Microgrids


Additionally, the DoD is investing in microgrid technology for tactical considerations on its bases globally, particularly in regions of heightened tension. Microgrids can save lives during wartime by eliminating the need for fuel convoys to power generators in conflict zones and power electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure to support mission requirements. This hybrid approach boosts energy independence and enhances operational capability by mitigating dangerous risks and ensuring continuity in the face of disruptions.


The DoD’s Success in Microgrid Implementation


Between FY20 and FY22, the DoD awarded $400 million in Federal funding and over $212 million in matching non-federal financing, with an additional $100 million available for award in FY23. The Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program has been one of the department’s most popular competitive programs for funding infrastructure enhancements that support military value, installation resilience, and/or family quality of life that benefits local installations.


According to Rachel Jacobson, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment, the Army’s microgrid initiative has proven “enormously successful.” Nearly 30 microgrids are operational, nine are under construction, and 26 are in the design phase. This progress highlights the military’s commitment to bolstering energy resiliency through microgrids at installations and in tactical settings.


Case Study: Kirtland Air Force Base Microgrid


Beyond the Army, other military branches, including the U.S. Air Force, have also been successfully leveraging the benefits of microgrids.


The first-of-its-kind microgrid at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, NM, exemplifies the DoD’s commitment to energy resilience. Heila Technologies, in partnership with Emera Technologies and Sandia National Laboratories, designed and deployed a highly resilient system of DC nanogrids to all the base’s residential units. Each home is equipped with solar PV modules and an energy battery, and the entire system can operate autonomously for extended periods, capable of going months without a grid connection.


The Kirtland Air Force Base microgrid serves as a model for sustainable and resilient power systems. Through front-of-the-meter assets financed via utility rate-basing and the use of modular DC networks controlled by the Heila EDGE®, the microgrid reduces costs, integrates renewable energy sources, and simplifies the resilience value proposition.


The continued success of these distributed energy systems on DoD installations and the Department’s ambitious resilience and climate goals will only bolster the case for more microgrid deployments and the funding necessary for these infrastructure enhancements.


Industry Partnerships and Procurement Efficiency


While progress has created a solid foundation and opened opportunities for the EPC sector to play a crucial role in deploying these advanced energy systems, the DoD and EPC professionals still face challenges in meeting the ambitious microgrid deployment targets. The need to increase the pace of microgrid design and construction remains evident and will require extensive collaboration between government agencies, private-sector EPC firms, and technology innovators.


With projects needing to be construction-ready for funding eligibility, EPCs interested in tapping into this burgeoning sector need a proven microgrid solution partner. That’s where Heila Technologies can help. From our full-service EPC partnership program to the modular and decentralized Heila EDGE microgrid control and optimization platform, Heila has the energy expertise and innovative technology to simplify deployments, mitigate risks, and optimize systems to ensure mission-critical success.


Looking to enter the dynamic landscape of military energy infrastructure? Reach out to learn how Heila helps EPC firms tap into the transformative opportunities emerging from the DoD’s microgrid initiative.