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Ideal Power’s solar-plus-storage microgrid solution for US Air Force

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks with 1st Lt. Jonathan Goins, an environment research engineer at the Air Force Research Lab. Source: Johnny Salvidar
Ideal Power, a power conversion expert, has partnered with EnerDel and its lithium-ion batteries to create a mobile solar-plus-storage microgrid for the US Air Force.

The system was launched under a year-long programme formulated by researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory and University of Dayton Research Institute.

Air Force bases and other militia locations are often reliant on diesel fuel to produce power in remote locations that are difficult to connect to the grid. Not only is this method expensive and environmentally adverse, but it is also unreliable as it can be problematic sending convoys into hostile environments.

To solve these problems, EnerDel selected Ideal Power’s grid resilient multi-port 30kW power conversion system together with an 8kW tent-mounted solar array to form a portable microgrid, which not only provides a cost-effective alternative to diesel, but adds a degree of energy security as power can be generated from solar independent of any utility grid.  Furthermore, Ideal Power’s software is ideal for remote locations as it is compact and configurable; enabling it to operate at both 50Hz and 60Hz, and therefore in a range of geographical locations. As further support for the US Air Force Energy Strategic Plan, the deployment of lightweight Ideal Power software reduces installation costs, which is preferable for military microgrid applications.

"EnerDel is very excited to demonstrate our fourth generation advanced energy storage and conversion technology at an Air Force operated training facility,” said Derrick Buck, engineering director at EnerDel, in a statement. “The collaboration of the Ideal Power and EnerDel teams allowed for the successful commissioning of our Mobile Hybrid Power System with Ideal Power's power conversion systems. We look forward to expanding our partnership with Ideal Power and continuing the future development of our military/microgrid product portfolio."

The microgrid is performing successfully at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland where it provides enough clean electricity to power lights and air conditioning for ten FOB living quarters. Based on the favourable results seen here, and in additional rigorous testing, the company is confident that the solar-plus-storage system could eventually be deployed at Air Force locations worldwide.

“There is a history of successful commercial applications coming out of the military. This installation is a great example of the type of project that can lead to penetration of the large military and microgrid markets in addition to broad applications in a commercial setting,” said Bill Alexander, CTO at Ideal Power. “Ordinary solar PV installations can only supply power while the utility grid is up and running. This system supplies power from solar PV independent of the utility grid and points the way towards microgrid-ready solar PV which will supply electricity – with or without utility power – and allow facilities to continue powered operations from battery and/or solar PV after loss of utility power.”

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