Energizing the Corps

By Rebecca Brock

Photography By Randy Montoya and USMC

Friday, May 13, 2016

Sandia teams with US Marines on microgrids and renewable energy planning

Members of the US Marine Corps are often the first boots on the ground in a crisis. On the front lines, they must be able to power up securely without plugging into utilities. They require nothing less than completely reliable and cost-effective energy independence.

Researchers from Sandia are collaborating with the Marine Corps to increase its energy security and reduce fuel dependence through alternative technologies, including renewable energy and microgrids. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Expeditionary Power Systems recently began a new effort with Sandia to develop analytic software tools that will give military decision-makers the quantitative support needed to achieve their long-term renewable energy goals.

“We are honored to partner with the United States Marine Corps,” says Sandia project lead Nadine Miner (6114). “The modeling and optimization suite of tools that Sandia has developed will provide Marine Corps leaders with the information they need to help make decisions about which renewable energy technologies to invest in. The tools will also help them understand the impacts of their decisions. This project will help the Marine Corps invest taxpayers’ money wisely.”

Sandia researchers Nadine Miner and John Eddy are collaborating with the US Marine Corps to help it make smart decisions on renewable energy planning with a powerful software tool called MDT, the Microgrid Design Toolkit.   (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Builds on earlier collaborations

The collaboration builds on modeling, simulation, and analysis work that Sandia began in 2012 with the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Energy Office. The new endeavor takes advantage of Sandia’s breadth and depth of experience with microgrids — localized grids that generate and consume power and can run either independently or connected to the larger utility grid.

The project primarily uses a Sandia-developed software tool known as the Microgrid Design Toolkit (MDT), which allows microgrid designers to understand technology options and make smart decisions about technology solutions early in the design process. The software uses powerful search algorithms to identify potential trade-offs among factors such as cost, performance, and reliability.

Sandia computer scientist John Eddy (6133), one of the original developers of the MDT, is the project’s technical lead. He says the tool’s unique multi-objective optimization offers many different solutions to build a system. On the new project, Sandia will customize the toolkit to enable the Marine Corps to make smart choices in planning investments in microgrids and renewable energy technologies, such as solar and batteries and, further down the line, wind.

Military and Energy Systems Analysis Dept. 6114 manager Alan Nanco says, “This project is an exemplary effort that aligns with the energy collaboration memorandum of understanding signed by DOE and DoD in 2010. It emphasizes the need to accelerate joint efforts in clean energy and national energy security technologies from national laboratories to military end users.”