As part of Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), Gulf Power announced today that construction began on an innovative solar microgrid pilot project the company is building and will operate in partnership with Tyndall Air Force Base. The microgrid pilot project supports the U.S. Air Force’s plan to rebuild Tyndall as a more resilient “Installation of the Future,” and could serve as a prototype for future Department of Defense installations.
Tyndall Air Force Base sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Michael in 2018. The Category 5 hurricane caused an estimated $4.7 billion in catastrophic damage and destroyed nearly 500 buildings beyond repair. In 2020, the USAF announced they would rebuild the base as an “Installation of the Future,” with updated building codes, “smart building” technology and features that will make the base more storm resilient.
“As Tyndall rebuilds, Gulf Power and FPL are combining resiliency and renewables to the effort as a way to ensure mission readiness,” said Mike Spoor, Gulf Power vice president. “This pilot project is a win-win for the regional economy, the Air Force and our customers. Supporting Tyndall’s viability is critical to thousands of military and civilian jobs. And, the Air Force, Gulf Power and FPL will be working together to learn from this first-of-its-kind project and test a variety of use cases, which could help us build a smarter, stronger grid for customers – especially during storms.”
The microgrid at Tyndall, which Gulf Power and FPL expect to complete early next year, will comprise a 150-kilowatt (kW) solar array and 450 kW, 2.5-hour battery. The microgrid will have a 10-year lifespan and support three buildings on base. By partnering with Tyndall, Gulf Power and FPL will have the opportunity to further explore cutting-edge microgrid technology, while supporting the U.S. Air Force and the local economy at the same time.
Gulf Power has a long history of providing solutions for military bases in its service area. In 2015, the company partnered with the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy and a third-party developer to install solar arrays at Naval Air Station Pensacola Saufley Field, Naval Air Station Whiting Field and Eglin Air Force Base – helping its military partners meet federal renewable energy and energy conservation mandates.
Tyndall Air Force Base is an important military installation, home to critical U.S. Air Force readiness, as well as the F-22 Raptor simulator training program and the only Air Battle Manager School in the U.S. Air Force. Tyndall also serves as headquarters to the First Air Force, which is responsible for air defense and air sovereignty of the contiguous U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
“The Air Force has a tradition of operating on the leading edge of innovation, and at Tyndall Air Force Base, microgrid technology has emerged as a promising way to create a resilient and sustainable ‘Installation of the Future,” said Col. Travis Leighton, Natural Disaster Recovery Program division chief.
Microgrid technology can uniquely address customer needs for resiliency in the wake of extreme weather events such as wildfires and hurricanes. A smaller version of the main energy grid, microgrids are capable of operating in both grid-connected and “island” mode – meaning when severe weather affects the main energy grid a microgrid can operate autonomously using its own local energy sources to power the buildings or facilities that the microgrid supports.
“Even though energy sustainability is just one component of resilience being considered at Tyndall, it is an important one,” said Lowell Usrey, Natural Disaster Recovery Program chief of integration. “The Air Force base of today is a weapon system and that weapon system should have the capacity to endure and recover from extreme events.”