FORT BENNING, Ga − Fort Benning is at the forefront of the Army’s modernization efforts with the implementation of energy-resilient technology, partnering with a nonprofit electric cooperative, Flint Energies, to construct a new microgrid node which serves the installation’s critical facilities.
“We recently completed construction of a microgrid at Flint Dixie Road substation in partnership with Flint Energies,” said Damian Haye, a mechanical engineer with Fort Benning Directorate of Public Works. “We have a second node in design, with three more nodes to be added at a later date.”
Microgrids are small-scale electrical networks that operate independently or in tandem with large-scale electrical supplies to generate electricity for specific facilities, enabling installations to become self-sufficient during emergencies in which there could be a widespread power loss.
“When a power disruption occurs on the main energy grid, the microgrid can be broken off and operate on its own using natural-gas generators to provide electricity to the installation,” said Haye.
The power generation portion of the microgrid node consists of 15 natural-gas generators, comprised of four generator groups with a total capacity of 9.75 megawatts.
Before the microgrid was in place, power disruption would have been a major event that could have lasted hours before power was restored to a large part of the installation.
“We now have the ability to supply the installation[’s] critical facilities in the event of a major electrical outage, with electricity for 14 or more consecutive days,” said Garland Turner, resources efficiency manager, Fort Benning Directorate of Public Works.
An important piece of the power grid is the microgrid distribution automation center, which acts as the nerve center of the system, giving the grid the ability to self-heal by using analytics to pinpoint the segment where the fault is occurring.
“As part of the microgrid project, the automatic transfer scheme and distribution automation devices were added to the electrical system to isolate faults and limit the number of facilities affected by an outage,” said Steve Catchings, manager of Fort Benning operations with Flint Energies. “The system can evaluate any problems and begin healing the system automatically before the first notification of an outage can be made.”
With great power comes efficiency, the microgrid node can also be used to save money on electrical costs, in a process known as “economic dispatch” during times of high real-time electricity prices.
“Economic dispatch is when the cost of electricity exceeds the cost for us to produce our own, so we swap to producing our own power,” said Turner. “We were able to save $345,762.81 through economic dispatch of the microgrid in 2022.”
Proven and impactful partnership between Fort Benning and Flint Energies, set the stage for accelerating the future of energy resiliency.
“Flint Energies is a nonprofit cooperative that serves as the utility provider on Fort Benning, and we appreciate the opportunity to add resiliency to the electrical system on Fort Benning through the microgrid project,” said Catchings.
The Flint Dixie Road microgrid substation is an example of how public partners are able to work together to support installation readiness and resilience. Energy security and sustainability for Fort Benning is a critical aspect of operational capabilities to self-sustain its critical missions.
"Partnering with industry is an example of Fort Benning’s commitment to remain in a constant state of mission readiness,” said Col. Colin P. Mahle, Fort Benning garrison commander. “I am proud to partner with industry leaders in pursuing the development of microgrids across the installation to strengthen energy readiness and resilience.”