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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2019

Project PEARL: Sustainable microgrid to deliver energy assurance

By Senior Airman John Linzmeier 154th Wing

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – The Hawaii Air National Guard is adopting some of the latest developments in microgrid technology.

This project, announced during a blessing ceremony Dec. 17 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, is a component of the Pacific Energy Assurance Renewables Laboratory or PEARL. It is designed to provide new layers of energy assurance and self-sustaining power sources to the 154th Wing.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige, project planners and National Guard leaders attended the event at the Fort Kamehameha Historic Reservation, where a power distribution station will be built and operational by August.

"The PEARL project is the first of six planned microgrids, which will not only provide energy assurance, resilience and cybersecurity to the 154th Wing F-22 [Raptor] campus at JBPH-H, but also serve as a technology and business development laboratory to complete the state's goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045," said David Molinaro, acting director of the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies.

Planning for the microgrid began in 2016 in collaboration with the HCATT, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the National Guard Bureau, the Hawaii Air National Guard, Navy Facilities Command and a Hawaii architecture and engineering firm.

The governor thanked each contributing partner and shared his vision about the microgrid's potential.

"As a technology and business development laboratory, PEARL will help advance Hawaii's shift to renewable energy, and help the diversification of the state's energy portfolio," said Ige. "The lessons learned from this project, and especially about how microgrids can help provide improved resiliency and sustainability, will help to advance the state's commitment to 100 percent, clean, renewable energy and reduce our state's dependence on fossil fuels."

Unlike traditional power grids, which are large-scaled and centralized, the microgrid power station is designed to receive, store and transfer a variety of localized energy sources. While a traditional diesel-fuel generator will initially power the grid, the project will evolve in three steps to make clean energy the primary source. Established solar panels throughout the HIANG's campus and other clean technologies, such as HCATT's development of hydrogen fuel cells, will be incorporated.

"During step one, we are completely focused on getting the microgrid online as a functioning power source," said Maj. Emilio Placencia, 154th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy base civil engineer. "Step two is to put all our solar energy that we're generating and have the power and electricity stored as a backup. Once we proved redundancy and reliability of our solar capabilities, we can begin step three and, potentially, make solar our primary power source. At that point, the electricity that's coming into the microgrid would be our backup."

The HIANG is charged with dual roles, conducting federal and state missions. Col. Dann Carlson, 154th Wing commander, emphasized how PEARL will help provide mission assurance through energy assurance, allowing energy to be transferred through the microgrid directly to critical facilities when Wing assets, such as the Hawaiian F-22 Raptors, are needed most.

To honor the spiritual significance of the ceremony grounds, a traditional Hawaiian priest and island caretaker, known as a Kahu, led the PEARL representatives in a welcoming chant, serving as a form of acknowledgment and respect for the land, commitment and partnerships involved in the project.

The partners placed their hands on a symbolic mound of earth in a moment of silence to reflect on good intentions and the project's impact on the surrounding 'Aina' (land in the Hawaiian language).

"Our Wing's history and the Hawaiian culture is one of collaboration, innovation and respect for the land and its people," said Carlson. "We see PEARL as an extension of those cultural beliefs. This is also a remarkable opportunity for the U.S. Air Force to further advance renewable energy technologies, which will give long-term benefits to the 154th Wing, the state of Hawaii, our fellow services and the nation."