Microgrids make smart use of the energy produced on a local level, including from renewable sources, while slotting into the bulk power grid, offering benefits such as reliability, carbon emission reduction, the diversification of energy sources, and cost reduction. With the military’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and meeting ever tighter budget restrictions while maintaining energy security, they could offer a perfect solution for managing the power at bases.

Lockheed Martin certainly thinks so, and under a project funded by the US Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Programme has installed the first grid-tied microgrid integrating renewable resources and energy storage at Fort Bliss, Texas. After a lengthy process preparing energy generation sources and the hardware and software necessary to support it, the Fort Bliss microgrid now enters a demonstration phase, which continues until the end of July.

Fort Bliss spokesperson Major Joe Buccino said: "The tactical utility of this technology is its ability to allow us to operate off the grid. We are entering an age of emerging threats and cyber warfare. We are assuming an unacceptable measure of risk at fixed installations of extended power loss in the event of an attack on the fragile electric grid. This project represents the future of military energy security."

The result of a 2010 demonstration contract, the microgrid consists of onsite backup generation, a 120 kilowatt solar array, a 300 kilowatt energy storage system and utility grid interconnection overseen by Lockheed Martin’s Intelligent Microgrid Control System. Energy storage mitigates against the intermittent nature of many renewable energy sources, helps to lower costs, and responds to periods of high energy demand.

"The Fort Bliss microgrid will provide the DoD and other government and commercial organisations with the data and confidence necessary to transition microgrid technologies into wider scale use," said Jim Gribschaw, director of energy programs at Lockheed Martin. "Microgrids are the key to an energy efficient and secure future for sites such as defence installations, hospitals, universities, commercial businesses, and industrial sites."

The Fort Bliss is not Lockheed’s first foray into providing smart power solutions to the US military. Last year the company delivered its Integrated Smart BEAR Power System (ISBPS) to power mobile air bases for the US Air Force and a Hybrid Intelligent Power (HI Power) microgrid system for the Army.