State awards $5 million for final phase of microgrid project at sub base
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday announced a $5 million state grant to build out an electric microgrid at the Naval Submarine Base, which will allow the base to generate its own electricity to maintain key operations in the event of a disruption or power outage.
The project was first proposed in 2010 but, given its complexity and need for buy-in from senior Navy officials, it took years to gain momentum. In addition to the $5 million, the state also spent $1 million on early design and planning of the project. Construction is expected to start next year.
The appeal of an energy management system like a microgrid is the ability to disconnect from the main power grid and divert energy to critical needs on base, such as docked submarines. The system also will allow for automated data gathering and the ability to more precisely manage peak demand, according to the governor's office.
When asked why the project is worthy of state investment, Malloy pointed to the state's part in protecting the base, which has about 10,000 military and civilian employees, against a potential closing or downsizing in the future. In 2007, the General Assembly voted to set aside $40 million for infrastructure improvements on base, less than half of which is still unused.
"It's an investment in the base itself, and making sure the relationship between Connecticut and the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Navy is a strong one," Malloy said by phone Wednesday. "There will be another round of closings at some point, and we want to make sure people understand that the state is not only hospitable, but contributes to the welfare of those who live and work on base."
The sub base has been targeted for closure before, most recently during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, when it was taken off the list at the last minute. During the 2005 BRAC, officials identified the fact that all the electrical power on base came from one location as a vulnerability.
In a statement, Capt. Paul Whitescarver, commanding officer of the base, said in a statement that the microgrid "will enhance our power diversification, our physical and energy security, and most certainly our community collaboration."
The microgrid will be supported by a 7.4-megawatt fuel cell park also in the works for the base. When it's complete, energy produced by the fuel cells will be sold on the local power grid. That energy can be tapped by the "islanded" microgrid when there's disruption on the local grid. The microgrid is designed to be expandable so power can be increased and distribution can be improved in the future, said Bob Ross, executive director of the state's Office of Military Affairs.