Some Installations Able to Cut the Cord to Commercial Grid

Some Installations Able to Cut the Cord to Commercial Grid

Each of the services has efforts under way to protect their installations from disruptions to the commercial grid, including the possibility of cyberattacks, according to testimony from top installation officials Tuesday.

The Army recently conducted a test demonstrating that a biomass plant located on Fort Drum, N.Y., could power the post in the event the grid goes down. An energy firm invested $34 million converting the installation’s coal-fired plant to burn logging residue and wood products reclaimed from demolition sites. The plant provides 100 percent of the post’s electricity needs.

“We demonstrated that right now Fort Drum is the most resilient installation in the Army’s portfolio from an energy standpoint,” Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary for installations, energy and the environment, told the Senate Armed Services’ Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee.

Three months of fuel for the plant is located close by, so the installation could survive an extended outage, she said.

The Navy is looking at the threat a cyberattack poses to control systems for industrial and infrastructure systems, said Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment.

“However, Mother Nature continues to be the greatest threat to mission resiliency in our installations around the world,” he said. In response, the Navy has begun deploying distributed-generation assets, including renewable energy plants.

At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., the local utility is developing a microgrid network powered by a 25-megawatt generator to provide backup power in the event of a grid outage. The peaker plant benefits all customers of the utility by helping to avoid an outage, McGinn said.

The Air Force similarly is working to protect its installations from external threats, said Miranda Ballentine, assistant secretary for installations, environment and energy.

“We’re advancing how we think about energy assurance to have smart cyber-secure, highly dynamic agile energy systems — microgrids — that allow us to be severed from the wider utility grid because the threat environment has changed,” Ballentine said.

“We have to prepare for long-term outages either due to physical threats against the U.S. grid or cyberattacks against the U.S. grid,” she said.

The witnesses’ written testimony and a webcast of the hearing are available on the committee website.

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