VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Vandenberg Air Force Base a $500K grant to continue work towards increasing installation energy resiliency and efficiency. Representatives of the DOE met with base energy managers at the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron on Feb. 23, 2021, for a grant award kickoff meeting, to finalize the grant implementation process.
“This grant was a joint effort by 30th CES and the 30th Comptroller Squadron,” said Bill Toman, 30th CES energy manager. “We have been developing strategies to more completely utilize the full output of the existing solar PV plant, and to upgrade Vandenberg’s infrastructure in support of energy resiliency objectives. We identified the $500K U.S. DOE AFFECT Grant as an excellent opportunity to secure additional funding that would enable the 30th CES to expand upon planned improvements for the base.”
The initial grant proposal, submitted by the 30th CES and 30th CPTS back in July 2020, was designed to supplement an ongoing contracted program, the VAFB Solar 1 photovoltaic array, a 28 megawatt solar generator plant completed in 2018. The array is one of the largest solar energy generators in the Air Force.
“The solar array is capable of generating more electricity during daylight hours than Vandenberg can use,” said Toman. “Because we are currently prohibited from exporting excess generated power to PG&E’s electric grid, some of the solar panels and their associated inverters have to be turned off in order for the solar generation to exactly match the base’s electric demand – a process called curtailment.”
Because the current solar power contract requires a minimum amount of electricity be consumed by Vandenberg AFB each year to avoid curtailment, one solution to maximize consumption is storing excess solar energy in utility scale batteries, which can then provide power into the early evening hours after sundown.
“The DOE grant will help pay for the studies and engineering needed to assess the attributes of the battery additions and associated microgrids,” said Toman. “When completed, the batteries will result in a lower cost of electricity to the base and will reduce Vandenberg’s carbon footprint by more fully utilizing the solar energy available from the solar array. In addition, battery storage on base will provide mitigation for California wildfire risk management policies which now authorize PG&E to shut off the region’s electric transmission grid if adverse weather conditions exist, which in the past have led to catastrophic wildfire ignitions and propagation.”
With the grant award process near completion, work on securing and installing the new battery storage could begin as early as April 2021, leaving the future of energy management and energy resiliency at Vandenberg AFB looking brighter. This future is possible thanks to the combined team effort from 30 CES and 30 CPTS throughout the grant process.
“It feels great to be a part of a team which identified sources of additional Federal funding for an energy resilience project which benefits both Vandenberg and DOE,” said Toman. “Hopefully, this will become a model for other DoD facilities to emulate. There was a lot of competition for these DOE AFFECT grants, so it is gratifying that the proposal team did such a proficient job in pulling together a winning grant application.”