Contributed Commentary by Scott Childers, Stryten Energy
December 19, 2022 | More and more companies and organizations are using energy storage solutions, including the U.S. military. Whether to provide greater energy security through base microgrids during local utility grid outages, improve their environmental footprint, or lower their energy costs, the applications and benefits are numerous and varied.
There are several current applications of energy storage solutions by the military. The armed forces continue to innovate and find new uses for energy storage in the future.
Energy Security is Paramount
The military recognizes the importance of increasing stationary energy storage to support their bases’ energy security and energy independence needs. Doing so will help them keep specific critical infrastructures—such as communications, medical functions, refrigeration, and vehicle charging—powered even during outages, especially if implemented as part of the military’s newly required microgrids.
A battery energy storage system (BESS) can augment the diesel generators traditionally used to keep the power on during outages at many military bases. A BESS can provide immediate power before the generators kick in. Additionally, adding battery systems, particularly with renewable solar and wind generators, can extend how long critical functions are maintained until the power comes back.
In 2022, the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps announced that their bases and critical facilities would have mandatory independent microgrids. The objective for these microgrids is to ensure installations have power and can operate independently from the primary utility grid during emergency response times. While some military bases and facilities already have successful microgrids—such as the one in California with enough power to provide energy to 300,000 civilian homes in San Diego during high peak demand—other bases are still ramping up their energy supply. In doing so, they are including battery energy storage systems in their plans.
By integrating BESS units into their critical functions and using storage to augment their current and new microgrids, the U.S. military is moving towards greater energy security and independence, providing their bases and facilities with continuous access to reliable power sources.
Renewable Energy Usage is Required
Along with their commitment to building microgrids, the military has also announced goals to greatly improve their environmental footprints. The Army has committed to providing 100% carbon pollution-free electricity at its installations by 2030. In addition, the Navy and Marine Corps’ Climate Action 2030 goals include reducing emissions and energy demand while increasing carbon pollution-free electricity at their facilities and bases. The goal is to help the nation reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The military is using stationary energy storage to achieve these goals because this energy technology can capture and store more renewable energy from solar and wind resources, limiting the need for curtailment.
Cutting Costs is Beneficial
As one of the country’s biggest energy consumers, the military uses energy storage solutions to minimize energy usage costs. For example, peak energy demand charges can add tens of millions in expenses. Discharging a BESS system during peak utility grid usage times allows the base to lessen energy drawn from the primary utility grid and reduce these costs. Further, the BESS may be charged during off-peak hours, often at lower prices, or increase their renewable use by producing more during lower energy demand times and storing it in their batteries for use later in the day.
What Comes Next?
So what comes next for military applications for stationary energy storage solutions? Plenty. More military bases will likely be interested in providing land for renewable energy production and storage and partnering with industry businesses to provide the capital to create the system and maintain it. This way, the military would have access to energy when needed, freeing them up to focus on their primary defense jobs, not energy logistics.
Additionally, the military may start using more long-duration energy storage solutions to support areas where natural disasters have occurred. For example, a portable microgrid with battery energy storage could better supply critical services and functionality to a community and provide a more renewable alternative to a traditional diesel generator.
The Inflation Reduction Act includes vital investment tax credits for domestically sourced and manufactured standalone clean energy storage intended to lower costs, increase energy efficiency, and strengthen energy security and energy independence for the U.S. This means that businesses, universities, cities, and other organizations now have greater incentive to incorporate more energy storage solutions in their energy operations. As they do, they can look to the U.S. military for examples of how to implement the technology and achieve better energy security and resiliency for themselves.
Stationary energy storage solutions are already helping the military meet their objectives to improve their energy security and independence, renewable energy usage, and costs. And thanks to the wide variety and versatility of battery chemistries—such as advanced lead, lithium, and vanadium redox flow battery chemistries that can be used together or separately within energy ecosystems—the military will be able to continue working with energy storage innovators to integrate batteries into their critical applications in new and highly impactful ways.
Scott Childers is vice president of Stryten Energy’s Essential Power Division. In this role, he is responsible for growing the company’s energy solutions and new technology offerings. Childers champions clean, renewable energy opportunities for Stryten and actively works with utilities and original equipment manufacturers to deploy long-duration, sustainable energy storage solutions. He can be reached at email@example.com.