Project PEARL: Sustainable microgrid to deliver energy assurance

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman John Linzmeier
  • 154th Wing Public Affairs

The Hawaii Air National Guard has set off to adopt some of the most recent developments in microgrid technology, announced during a blessing ceremony Dec. 17, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

This project is a component of the Pacific Energy Assurance Renewables Laboratory or PEARL, and is designed to provide new layers of energy assurance and self-sustaining power sources to the 154th Wing.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige, along with project planners and National Guard leadership attended the event, held at the Fort Kamehameha Historic Reservation, where a power distribution station will be constructed and is scheduled to be operational by August 2020.

“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, Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies acting director and ceremony officiator.

Planning for the microgrid began in 2016, and is the collaborative result of several agencies, to include the HCATT, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the National Guard Bureau, the Hawaii Air National Guard, Navy Facilities Command and the Hawaii-based Architecture and Engineering firm, Burns and McDonnell.

The governor expressed words of thanks to 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 the grid will initially be powered by a traditional diesel-fuel generator, the project is intended to evolve over a three-step process, aimed at making clean energy the primary source. This will incorporate previously established set of solar panels throughout the HIANG’s campus and other clean technologies, such as HCATT's development of hydrogen fuel cells.

“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-faceted roles with its commitment to conduct 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 and 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 various 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 team of partners were guided toward a symbolic mound of earth, where each member kneeled down in unison and placed their hands on the soil. This ritual was accompanied with a prolonged 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-termed benefits to the 154th Wing, the state of Hawaii, our fellow services and the nation.”