MCAS Miramar uses renewable energy to prevent blackouts

Solar panels at MCAS Miramar
Posted at 5:25 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 21:30:10-04

MIRAMAR, Calif. (KGTV) - Marine Corps Air Station Miramar unleashed the potential of their renewable energy powered grid Tuesday to support San Diego during a heat wave.

"We've reached a point where we really need to take action to conserve," Jessica Packard, Communications Manager at SDG&E, said. The California Independent System Operator issued a Flex Alert spanning Sunday through Wednesday, which forced SDG&E to begin hour long rotating black outs across the county.

Mick Wasco, Installation Energy Manager at MCAS Miramar, said they have a great relationship with SDG&E and heard over the weekend the power grid was at maximum capacity.

Wasco said they took action, "although not entirely ready we did whatever we could to get our system online and help support as soon as possible."

Wasco said the base has been working on a microgrid for more than a decade. It is powered by three sources: solar, landfill gas in partnership with Fortistar, and a power plant that uses natural gas and diesel, created in partnership with Schneider Electric and Black and Veatch.

Wasco said the power plant works smarter, "these are not backup generators, these are generators with the best equipment possible to clean the emissions."

The system succeeded Tuesday, eliminating six megawatts of usage from San Diego's grid. That saved about 2,000 homes from going dark.

"I don't know that everybody knows what we're capable of doing at Miramar and I think the goal is over the next couple years is to demonstrate that," Wasco said.

The system has won multiple awards, including the 2019 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Sustainability and the Environmental Protection Agency's National Award for Energy in 2015.

"I think this is only the beginning and we can greatly improve our abilities in the coming years," Wasco said he wants to continue working with businesses and the community to utilize the system the most efficient and beneficial way possible.

The system was initially needed to power the base during a disaster. The Navy calls for bases to be able to power themselves for two weeks. MCAS Miramar can power themselves without extra supplies for three weeks.

Wasco said if they did get supplies, like diesel, they could potentially power themselves indefinitely.