GROTON, Conn. – U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (2nd - Conn.), and leadership from the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC); FuelCell Energy, Inc. of Danbury; the Connecticut Office of Military Affairs; and Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE), marked the Navy’s and CMEEC’s agreement to site a 7.4 megawatt fuel cell park on the base during a special event, Thursday, October 19.
The event was held on the base near the installation’s interface with the community power grid. The new generating capabilities will be used to supply the local power grid as well as SUBASE.
"It’s a win for all involved," said Capt. Paul Whitescarver, SUBASE Commanding Officer, who highlighted that the project is possible through the Navy's "Enhanced Use Leasing" or "EUL" program.
EUL opportunities provide Navy installations with alternatives to traditional approaches of acquiring, constructing, or upgrading facilities. The EUL program enables installations, like SUBASE, to leverage assets or property that are underutilized but not excess to the Navy's needs, such as a small parcel of land adjacent to the SUBASE power sub-station.
"The most qualified developer is selected through a competitive solicitation process, in this case CMEEC," said Whitescarver. "And, in exchange for use of the leased property, the Navy receives consideration in the form of cash or ‘in-kind services,’ such as power and equipment upgrades."
Power, energy resiliency, and energy costs were key factors in determining an installation’s military value during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, pointed out Courtney.
The new fuel cells help SUBASE with such factors, said Bob Ross, Executive Director of the Connecticut Office of Military Affairs. "We now have in place a way to address power vulnerability," he declared.
For SUBASE, the fuel cell park’s on-base location will also advance energy reliability and energy security, according to Drew Rankin, Chief Executive Officer of CMEEC.
"This project ensures our customer, the U.S. Navy, of long-term cost effective power delivered on the base to ensure power to critical infrastructure," said Rankin.
He noted that beyond eliminating energy losses over lengthy transmission lines, the fuel cells will be configured for the base’s grid-independent operation in the event of a grid outage.
For Whitescarver, the fuel cell park’s grid-independent operation will be instrumental as SUBASE continues to pursue the development of a future micro-grid for the base.
"A SUBASE micro-grid will transform our existing electrical system into a more intelligent, flexible, and robust system," said Whitescarver. "SUBASE will benefit not only from automated data gathering and precise peak demand control, but also from the ability to seamlessly disconnect from the utility grid and efficiently dispatch power generation to mission critical loads, the submarines on our waterfront."
Rankin called the fuel cell park "a catalytic and essential electric generation anchor," for such a more significant micro-grid.
Whitescarver challenged Mike Bishop, Chief Financial Officer of FuelCell Energy to complete the fuel cell park by the time his command tour ends in January 2019.
Bishop said FuelCell Energy was "absolutely up" for the challenge.
The Navy's focus on energy security, energy efficiency, and energy sustainability and reliability is not new, explained Whitescarver at the event. It started in 2009 with the Secretary of the Navy’s Great Green Fleet initiative. Today, Navy energy programs aim to reduce the Navy's consumption of energy, decrease its reliance on foreign sources of oil, and significantly increase its use of alterna tive energy.
"Energy expenses are the single largest cost for Navy installations, reflecting about 28 percent of Navy's shore budget," said Whitescarver. "Cost savings created ashore free up dollars that can be used in the fleet. SUBASE is pursuing every opportunity to support our fleet, fighters, and families and minimize such costs."
In concluding the event, Whitescarver lauded the "innovative fuel cell park" as a "new milestone and ‘anchor’ for a comprehensive, base-wide energy program, ensuring energy resiliency, reliability, and security for years to come."