Defense

June 7, 2012

Army engineers spur development of tactical microgrids

Tags:
by Dan Lafontaine
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Christopher Wildmann, an electrical engineer with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, stands between a 60-kilowatt Tactical Quiet Generator, left, and a 30-kilowatt unit that were modified to enable a microgrid.

U.S. Army engineers are leading research on tactical microgrids to deliver more efficient power to soldiers across combat zones.

These microgrids are designed and built to provide power independently of traditional grids and to integrate multiple sources of energy for use and storage.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command is developing microgrid technologies specifically to meet requirements unique to the battlefield, said Christopher Wildmann, an electrical engineer with RDECOM’s Communications – Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.

“CERDEC is one of the first and leading organizations to develop tactical microgrid technologies,” he said. “Technologies on the forefront of the battlefield have to be very small and lightweight, which raises new challenges to the microgrid market.

“All other microgrid efforts going on in [the Department of Defense] are for installations. They are larger systems where tactical mobility is not a requirement.”

Wildmann directly supports Project Manager Mobile Electric Power, the military’s procurement and support agency for electric power generation on tactical battlefields, in the research and development of technologies for transition to production.

“The work in tactical microgrids has been a new challenge to the DOD and industry because of the strict environmental and ruggedness requirements,” he said. “Installation microgrid projects in industry don’t have those requirements. They can use a lot of [commercial off-the-shelf] components since there are no restrictions on size, weight and mobility.”

Intelligent distribution boxes are used to enable microgrids.

RDECOM’s primary goals in this field are to improve the efficiency and reliability of tactical power grids through the implementation of intelligence into power distribution systems. RDECOM aims to accomplish this through networking power assets together and being able to select the most efficient source for the load demanded.

Microgrid testing has yielded positive results, said Wildmann, who has worked with CERDEC’s Army Power Division for six years.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate these technologies and prove they are ready for production. Last year, we developed a microgrid [for a] demonstration at Fort Devens, Massachusetts,” he said. “The system was able to network multiple generators together and demonstrate a 37 percent reduction in fuel consumption by intelligently managing those existing sources based on the load.

“CERDEC also manages the hybrid intelligent power program, which is a tactical microgrid program to build a standardized system that utilizes all power generating assets on the battlefield to make grids more efficient.”

Because of transient conditions in the field, engineers must account for different scenarios during the research and development process, Wildmann said.

“A multitude of solutions is the best way to meet those different conditions,” he said.

Fossil-fueled generator sets are the primary source of power for the Army; however, CERDEC is developing solutions that use renewable power sources, he said.

For larger mobile tactical grids where generators are the primary source of power, advancements are necessary to make renewable power sources lighter, smaller, more power dense and easier to transport before they become a viable solution for tactical microgrids.

For smaller, more remote applications, CERDEC is developing hybrid trailer systems that use renewable power sources and can drastically reduce fuel consumption.

“For very remote operations where we want to reduce fuel as much as possible, renewables and hybrid solutions with batteries might be the best solutions,” he said. “For closer-in grids and units that have access to fuel, we are developing microgrid technologies to make grids as efficient and reliable as possible. Not one technology can be applied to all conditions.”

Emerging power and energy technologies also hold promise for further reductions in fuel consumption when Soldiers are not connected to permanent, reliable power grids. He said one possibility is the Stirling engine driven generator, which could be quieter, more efficient and require less maintenance than the typical internal combustion engine.

“The products we are working here within CERDEC can be very beneficial in the future to microgrids. For example, [we could use] fuel cells, smaller generators, or Stirling power systems. At some point, [these alternatives] can be implemented into a microgrid to further reduce fuel [requirements],” he said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines October 20, 2014

News: Navy grounds ‘Top Guns’ - The F/A-18s needs spare parts and in too many cases they’re being taken from brand new jets. This is a risk to national security and pilots’ lives.   Business: Boeing seeks revised schedule for U.S. aerial tanker - Boeing is revising its master schedule for developing the new U.S. Air Force...
 
 

News Briefs October 20, 2014

New military medical team to help with Ebola in U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to prepare and train a 30-member medical support team that could provide short-term help to civilian health professionals if there are more Ebola cases in the United States. His spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, says the team...
 
 

Dragon ‘fires up’ for flight

The Air Force and NATO are undergoing a cooperative development effort to upgrade the avionics and cockpit displays of AWACS aircraft belonging to the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and the NATO E-3 Sentrys from Geilenkirchen, Germany. The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation, otherwise...
 

 
Boeing photographs

Boeing-built X-37B successfully completes third flight

Unmanned spacecraft concludes record-setting 674-day mission   Boeing photograph A third mission of the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was completed on Oct. 17, 2014, when it landed and was recovered at Vandenberg...
 
 

Boeing concludes commercial crew space act agreement for CST-100/Atlas V

Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket. NASA in July approved the Critical Design Review Board milestone for Boeing’...
 
 

AF to release small business research solicitations

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program office is set to release its fiscal year 2015 list of topics Oct. 22, on the SBIR/STTR website.  Small businesses and research institutions with expertise to address the topics’ technology challenges are encouraged to submit proposals. During 2014, the Defense Department SBIR...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>