Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Major SPIDERS (DOD Secure Microgrid) Update

This post just in from Mr. Harold Sanborn, Program Manager at Construction Engineering Research Lab (CERL), US Army and technical manager for the SPIDERS Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD).  I've removed most of the defense industry speak from a longer version you can find on the DOD Energy Blog.  FYI SPIDERS = an ongoing DOD distributed energy program and the acronym stands for Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security. ab

Here's Harold:

SPIDERS Phase I has finished the "history tour" as we codify and publish the lessons learned.

SPIDERS results demonstrated additional capability for Joint Base Pear Harbor Hickam, including:
  • Synchronizing with the utility service power signal while pushing electricity back on to the base distribution system
  • Operational viewing of other circuits in the substation in addition to the one controlled by the micro-grid, and
  • Power factor improvements and the opportunity to test generators at load

The Navy customer (Navy Facility Command Pacific/Hawaii) provided positive and constructive feedback throughout the technical and operational demonstrations at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH). The only item where Navy utility folks have any residual concerns for on-going operations and maintenance is keeping their workforce trained and ready to employ SPIDERS and dealing with new technology after the buzz wears off. Our contractor (Burns & McDonnell) continues the dialog of training and post contract support. Two devices at JBPHH have had heat related challenges, and we're recommending we paint the boxes white instead of Navy utility brown.

To date, there isn't a system owner. Controls, hardware and software are not static and require some continuing education and occasional attention. DoD will face this challenge across the board as we take a collection of electrical appliances and make them a systems engineered smart grid. Oops, did I say smart grid?  I meant distributed energy management system. The good news is SPIDERS showed the truth in our motto: do no harm. During our operational demonstration, the software "burped" and the system went back to traditional stand alone back up power. The amazing thing: the 24/7 operators (blue collar Navy civilian) saw the system degrade in their 24/7 ops center without tripping loads or causing other electrical problems. Their after action dialog shows true customer values: a system that does what it says it will do. 

Cyber security critiques continue to bubble in the background. Growing areas of concern were anticipated, just not the ramp rate by which DoD is expecting trouble. PACOM (a combatant command and one of two SPIDERS Operational Managers) has invested many dollars and man hours in working closely with DHS and DOE labs to promote a comprehensive set of industrial controls cyber protection test(s). Phase I SPIDERS didn't require external hacking as part of the operational demonstration, yet in the end, we performed a cyber experiment that showed promise in our path forward. Phases II (Fort Carson CO) and III (USMC Camp Smith HI) offer expanded cyber experimentation and we plan to stay current with DoD and DHS process to validate their application in the real world of installation industrial controls.

Overall, most folks still fail to recognize the energy security value of micro-grids. To answer the question of worth for micro-grids, phase III SPIDERS will work to communicate with the local utility service, and provide ancillary services when connected to the utility service; and also offer other measurements to adjust power quality and controls while waiting for the anticipated utility outage so that the security aspect of islanding comes into play. 

Life cycle configuration management of smart systems might need a DoD PM to solve deployment issues. Frankly, it isn't an ownership definition that challenges DoD, although that's often the red herring slow thinking folks suggest. Ownership needs simple definitions that already exist in DoD. Accountable, physical, and custodial owners of distributed energy management systems will likely need to agree on metrics to begin programming for their responsibilities.

The take away, no, the bottom line is that smart systems are coming and we can manage those if we apply just a modicum of intellectual activity up front. SPIDERS isn't the first micro-grid. SPIDERS is a systems engineered solution using hardware and controls to insert new technologies to installation transmission and distribution systems to enable more energy security from existing and planned assets. How much is it worth? I'll answer that question in a future post. HS


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