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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ: http://kjzz.org/science

Microgrid Unveiled at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

The U.S. western power grid went down on September 8, 2011.  At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, this sparked the need for faster backup power.  What followed were plans between MCAS Yuma and Arizona Public Service to create something called a microgrid.  Maya Springhawk Robnett of the Arizona Science Desk reports...

A microgrid is a small-scale independent power grid that can support an area’s main electrical grid.  Here, the idea is to serve both civilian and national security interests.

This microgrid can provide power both to the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and to the Yuma area within 30 seconds of a blackout.  Ron Durfy is the Energy Manager for MCAS Yuma.  He says the 2011 event was a wake-up call.

“We realized that it was a pretty big deal," Durfy explains, "that would have to develop some sort of large-scale project that would help us provide the required power we need not only for this instance but for energy security and resilience down the road.”

MCAS Yuma’s microgrid is the first of its kind to be completed on a military base.  Scott Bordenkircher at Arizona Public Service explains how it differs from traditional backup generators.

“Traditional generation is much larger generating stations which need transmission lines and usually move power over long distances," Bordenkircher gestures to the facility behind him, "These engines are located directly here, on the base and in the Yuma community.”

The generators run on diesel fuel but the facility was designed with renewable energy in mind.  It was built to accommodate solar power sources in the future.