SPIDERS to Weave Web of Cyber, Energy Security

By October 28, 2011October 17th, 2014Best Practices, General, Science and Technology
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By Dana Finney

Microgrids use a combination of technologies to produce electricity and allow facilities to be “islanded” from the central grid. This microgrid serves the NTT power company’s facility in Tokyo. (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons, 2006 and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.)

A Joint Capability Technology Demonstration will use a distributed energy circuit, or microgrid, combined with other elements to ensure that critical military missions have a reliable, secure electrical supply after a power outage due to natural disasters or attack.

Called “Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security” (SPIDERS), the project will explore the advanced controls needed for utility-connected and islanded (operating without a connection to an electrical grid) modes of operation, cyber-security risk mitigation, and transition of microgrid technology to standards.

SPIDERS’ partners include the U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, five U.S. Department of Energy laboratories, the Engineer Research and Development Center of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (as technical manager), the four military services, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, local utility companies, and the States of Hawaii and Colorado. The three-year effort begins this year and will run through 2013.

A microgrid is a local grouping of electricity generation, energy storage, and loads usually connected to a traditional centralized grid, or macrogrid. This single point of common coupling with the macrogrid can be disconnected. The microgrid can then function autonomously. Microgrid generation resources can include fuel cells, wind, solar, or other energy sources, while storage can include such options as hydrogen storage and advanced batteries. Byproduct heat from generation sources, such as microturbines, can be used for local process heating or space heating, allowing flexible trade-offs between the needs for heat and electric power. Unneeded electricity from a microgrid can be “wheeled” back to the central grid, potentially at a profit to the microgrid owner.

Two DOD sites will have microgrids installed for the SPIDERS project: Camp H.M. Smith, HI, and Fort Carson, CO. In essence, the DOD sites provide a testbed for a capability that will have national implications. Successful demonstration and emergence of this technology will allow military installations and cities to take advantage of renewable energy and reduce fossil fuel use while also reducing the carbon footprint and providing a backup electrical supply. Further, it is becoming increasingly difficult for power companies to add generation facilities and transmission lines. Local or regional microgrids could augment the country’s existing electrical infrastructure.

This year, initial work will begin at Hickam Air Force Base, HI, in support of Camp Smith’s microgrid. The Hickam phase is a circuit-level demonstration to provide building blocks for Camp Smith’s future energy island. Planned activities begin with integrating the base’s existing renewables, diesel generators, and energy storage. A fuel cell will be added to back up critical loads on the installation circuit. The team will then perform an operational evaluation of the microgrid on mission loads to provide redundant power to simulate mission-critical functions.

Another goal is to validate the cyber-security strategies through a testbed simulation of the utility electric grid management systems with two-way communications, situational awareness, and the ability to safely reconnect with local utility grids. DOD must ensure that enhanced energy capabilities do not create new vulnerabilities to operations or systems’ health. Cyber-security elements of this demonstration will leverage ongoing work in the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security.

“Successful demonstration and emergence of this technology will allow military installations and cities to take advantage of renewable energy and reduce fossil fuel use while also reducing the carbon footprint and providing a backup electrical supply.”

At Camp Smith, the team will install an advanced metering infrastructure, implement demand-side management, and conduct an off-site simulation of the camp’s secure smart microgrid for a complete installation. The final configuration for Camp Smith at the project’s end will be an installation-wide, cyber-secure smart microgrid with battery storage and islanding capability. Successful demonstration will enable future Net Zero energy operations through the planning of investments in energy generation and renewable energy.

First-year activities at Fort Carson include tying the shared, distributed grid to backup generation, demonstrating the microgrid in the command area, and starting to incorporate photovoltaic (PV) renewable generation. Fort Carson’s completed system will be a large, smart microgrid with cyber defense and vehicle-to-grid storage that leverages 2 megawatts of existing PV generation and $20 million in recent electric upgrades.

SPIDERS will enter a transition phase with the completion of both demonstrations. It will begin with development of technology transition plans and result in:

  • A template for DOD-wide implementation (i.e., standards).
  • Guidance for insertion into contingency operations and design guides.
  • Training plans, techniques, tactics, and procedures (associated with advanced energy management systems).
  • Specifications added to the General Services Administration schedule for DOD.
  • Transfer to the commercial utility sector.
  • Transition of cyber security to the federal sector and utilities.

For more information, contact Dana Finney at 217-373-6714 or Dana.Finney@us.army.mil. For more information on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visit http://www.usace.army.mil/Pages/default.aspx, or for more information on ERDC, visit http://www.erdc.usace.army.mil/.


  • DANA FINNEY is a Public Affairs Specialist for the Engineer Research and Development Center. She holds a B.A. degree in science writing and editing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


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