Burns & McDonnell
Microgrids have the potential to serve as laboratories during the world’s ongoing transition toward a decarbonized economy. They also may have the ability to improve grid stability and resiliency in the long run, by design — an attractive feature that has become even more important as the spotlight has turned to maintaining critical infrastructure under pressure.
The Pacific Energy Assurance and Renewables Laboratory (PEARL) project in Hawaii is an example of that potential. The PEARL microgrid, being designed and built by Burns & McDonnell at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, is the first of six microgrids planned to boost energy assurance, resiliency and cybersecurity on the island of Oahu. The project is expected to be completed in August 2020 and will help defend the mission posture of the F-22 fighter campus.
Its capabilities include solar photovoltaic integration, battery energy storage, and the ability to transition to islanded operation instantaneously with less than a 10% voltage drop to critical loads. It is also intended to complement Hawaii’s 2045 goal for 100% carbon-free energy sources.
Building a 100% carbon-free grid means having a distributed supply that doesn’t necessarily match the load. Power flow from solar or wind resources can change directions suddenly with the weather. If the grid starts to destabilize, the PEARL microgrid will island itself from the utility without loss of critical power, and it will stabilize and operate everything behind it. It could potentially prevent a catastrophic failure by islanding the unstable renewable source into the microgrid.