US Military Wind Farm Technology: The Future of American Households?

Electricity is something that we all take for granted. But what would happen when our nation’s power grid gets hacked or decapitated by a natural disaster or military siege?

This is the reason the US military, in partnership with the private sector, has been developing microgrids or locally sourced power backup systems that harness renewable energy sources like wind and solar. It’s to develop energy resilience for times of crisis.

Sourcing local energy

A military power grid with a local power source, like wind and solar, is crucial during power outages. So, apart from these renewable sources being better for the environment, the fact that they’re accessible and cost-efficient makes them an ideal alternative energy source.

In particular, wind energy as a renewable power source is gaining popularity in the U.S., the number one wind energy producer in the world. Four percent of U.S. electricity comes from wind energy, and some states like Iowa use up to 31 percent wind power in-state.

The number of wind turbine farms in the U.S. is also growing, especially in ideal locations like San Patricio, Texas, and Chevelon Butte, Arizona.

Collecting wind power

Out of all the renewable energy sources, onshore wind has the lowest levelized cost. The price of renewable energy has also been decreasing over the past years due to continued advancements in technology and government subsidy. But making electricity from wind available on-demand is a different story.

Wind ‘supply’ does not always match demand, even if you’re in the right location where wind speed is at least 13 mph, the speed needed for utility-scale turbines to generate power.

When wind power potential is high but the demand in a county is low, wind turbines can be slowed down to reduce energy wastage. Doing this, however, does not maximize the machines’ productivity. To make wind energy production more cost-efficient, we need to develop an affordable technology that could store its energy for future use. Only then can we have electricity on-demand.

Power grids with advanced technology

Fuel can become difficult to transport under siege or after a catastrophic event. Military bases need a local energy source that can be stored longer for energy resilience.

The Otis Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Cape Cod has a 1.5 MW wind turbine that provides power to a 1.6 MW diesel generator. Energy can be stored in a 1.2 MW UltraBattery system, an advanced technology that can store energy longer than traditional options. Specifically, it can power the ANGB facility for five days. This is only one of several power grid systems being developed to create emergency energy sources.

Energy storage cost

Apart from batteries, there are other ways to store excess wind energy. But the high cost of these storage options has kept the technologies unaffordable for many.

Nevertheless, like in other new technologies, this difficulty in wind energy storage may only be in the beginning. With proper policy support and further advancements in technology, wind energy may become affordable and accessible to more consumers than just a few sectors, like the military.