Burns & McDonnell completes design of innovative Microgrid project for U.S. military

Burns & McDonnell has received approval from Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii to begin construction of the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) Phase I project at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH).

Burns & McDonnell was awarded the SPIDERS Phase I design-build project on December 2, 2011. Since the contract award, Burns & McDonnell has completed the design, procurement of long-lead equipment, construction planning, and development of the cyber security plan to obtain Authority to Operate the SPIDERS control network in accordance with the aggressive project schedule.

Burns & McDonnell has formed a project team that includes key partners Intelligent Power & Energy Research Corporation (IPERC), Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group, and IPKeys.

SPIDERS Phase I is the first step in the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) by the Departments of Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE), and Homeland Security (DHS) to develop Energy Surety Microgrids.

The JCTD focuses on increasing reliability in serving critical loads while simultaneously reducing fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Phase I will provide a circuit level microgrid to improve reliability of a single critical facility load. When implemented, a cyber-secure microgrid will optimize the use of existing generation assets — including renewable energy sources — and energy storage.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) is the Technical Manager for all phases of the SPIDERS JCTD. The USACE Philadelphia District and Marine Design Center are the contracting agents and NAVFAC Hawaii is the construction agent for Phase I.

The Burns & McDonnell microgrid solution for JBPHH is built on the concept defined by Sandia National Laboratories. It incorporates additional functionality while solving real world electrical distribution challenges faced when energizing a medium voltage network. These challenges include controlling inrush currents to transformers connected to the microgrid and providing a ground reference for the medium voltage system where none existed.

Immediately after contract award, the design team presented the challenges facing the JBPHH microgrid implementation and the corresponding Burns & McDonnell solutions to all of the stakeholders. This resulted in a more elegant solution that satisfied both the objectives of the JCTD as well as the safety, operability and maintenance concerns of the JBPHH utilities system operators of the Phase I system. The SPIDERS Phase I solution combines sound engineering of medium and low voltage electrical power distribution systems with a flexible and secure distributed control system developed by IPERC using their proven Intelligent Power Controllers (IPC) for system monitoring and control.

Although Phase I is supposed to be the “crawl” stage of the JCTD crawl-walk-run implementation strategy, the JBPHH microgrid power and control solution will provide a test bed for nearly all of the future SPIDERS phases’ demonstration objectives including paralleling dispersed generation assets over a control network, testing the limits of unity power factor renewable energy penetration on the microgrid, and measuring the cost effectiveness of battery storage as a means to smooth the variability of renewable generation assets. In order to maximize the value of the Phase I project, the Burns & McDonnell solution goes beyond the requirements of Phase I to provide a recipe for future installations to follow without additional cost to the Government.

During the microgrid design phase, the team faced several challenges including discovery of differing site conditions and changes in the Government-furnished energy storage system that will be integrated into the microgrid. Despite these challenges and the aggressive project schedule, Burns & McDonnell is on track to complete construction and system integration and perform Technical Demonstration activities before year’s end — on budget and ahead of the contracted schedule.

“Our biggest concerns starting this project were finding ways to attain the benefits of the research component of the RDT&E efforts within the constraints of a fixed price Military Construction project and to satisfy the diverse objectives of the high number of government stakeholders involved in the JCTD,” said Dave Barr, Burns & McDonnell project manager. “However, we have been able to finalize a design that satisfies stakeholders’ expectations. Everyone involved has remained committed to delivering a microgrid that benefits JBPHH operations as well as long-term DOD and DOE objectives to improve mission assurance for our military.”