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Otis Microgrid ribbon-cutting marks a new era in energy resiliency and grid security

Leaders of the Otis Microgrid project pose for a photo following the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The 102nd Intelligence Wing hosted a number of civilian and military leaders for the unveiling of the Otis Microgrid, a DoD funded energy project that will provide for an energy capability almost exclusively based on renewable energy while ensuring a high-level of grid security. Among those in attendance were Massachusetts Representative William Keating, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Matthew Beaton and keynote speaker, John W. Henderson, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was the culmination of nearly three years of work. Over 300 people from 30 agencies were responsible for the design, planning and implementation of the project which represents the Air National Guard and United States Air Force’s commitment to energy resilience and security.

The 102nd Intelligence Wing held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the initial operating capability of the installation’s newly completed, energy independent microgrid system on Wednesday, August 29, 2018. The keynote speaker for the event was the Honorable John W. Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy. The Otis Microgrid provides for an energy capability almost exclusively based on renewable energy while ensuring a high-level of grid security. In addition to providing energy resiliency for the 102nd Intelligence Wing’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission, it increases value to the Air Force and National Guard as well as state and Federal government through revenue and research opportunities for the energy industry. The Otis Microgrid reduces reliance on fossil fuels and takes advantage of wind power. The energy security and resiliency provided by the microgrid is critical to the 24/7 mission of the 102nd Intelligence Wing.

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- After three years of planning and construction, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Aug 29 that marked the DoD’s first wind-powered microgrid, signifying the system’s readiness to support the 24/7 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission of the 102nd Intelligence Wing.

The Otis Microgrid, a DoD-funded research project, provides for an energy capability almost exclusively based on renewable energy while ensuring a high-level of grid security. In addition to providing energy resiliency for the wing’s ISR mission, it increases value to the Air Force and National Guard as well as state and Federal government through revenue and research opportunities for the energy industry. 

The Cape Cod unit performs intelligence processing, exploitation and dissemination by analyzing and interpreting information from manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft as well as signals within the cyberspace domain; transforming this material into decision quality intelligence. This information is distributed rapidly across the globe for use in the planning and execution of operations. 

Of the microgrid’s contributions to the unit, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and the event’s key note speaker, John W. Henderson, said, “In the case of the 102nd Intelligence Wing – their mission relies on steady, clean power, so they can run their servers; so they can do their analysis; so they can see their ISR feeds as they come in; and any blip is a disruption to their mission and potentially disrupts the missions of the people they support in the different theaters they work in.”

Col. Virginia Doonan, 102nd Intelligence Wing Commander, spoke of the mission and the important role the microgrid will serve in support of it. “The wing performs vital operations to the U.S. military and intelligence community wherever and whenever needed.”

She added, “The Otis Microgrid provides energy security and resilience for these two critical missions all while ensuring a cyber-secure connection to commercial utilities which protects our infrastructure from cyber vulnerabilities.”

As the very first operational wind-powered microgrid in the DoD and the first to support an entire DoD installation, the financial benefits are estimated to be approximately six-hundred thousand dollars per year through projected demand response revenues, capacity tag management and frequency regulation.

Col. Doonan explained, “These significant cost savings further ensures our long term viability and continued presence in Massachusetts by being a lean operating wing and good stewards of the U.S. taxpayer.”

She continued, “The Otis Microgrid would not be possible without the help of many people, organizations and significant collaboration in financial contributions, intellectual capital and sweat equity in the process. This microgrid was a true collaborative process where multiple stakeholders came together to realize the completion of this project allowing an opportunity to test new technologies and ensure that this type of cost savings and energy resilience is easily duplicated through the DoD and the country.” 

In order for projects of this scope to be successful, the efforts of many need to focus on a singular goal. In the case of the Otis Microgrid, the team was diverse and worked together to see the project through. Maj. Shawn Doyle, Base Civil Engineer and manager of the project said “I sat down and thought, ‘well, how many people have been involved in this project?’ – I quickly got up to numbers of over 300, across 30 organizations in the private and public sector and covering three countries.”

The project saw an incredible amount of work completed on the base such as the installation of over three miles of overhead 3-phase cable, 165 new utility poles and over 4 miles of fiber-optic communications cable.

Matthew A. Beaton, Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts said, “This project, for us in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is something that fits in perfectly with so many of the initiatives that Governor Baker has put forward over the last few years – certainly around his executive order on climate change – making the Commonwealth more adaptive and more resilient to the effects of climate change with a strong focus on energy resiliency.”

In addition to the real benefits seen here on Cape Cod, it gives the DoD and the Commonwealth a solid test bed to better understand energy resilience and security, through technical and economic studies. 

Secretary Beaton went on to say, “Where better to focus those efforts than at one of the most critical assets the Commonwealth has in this military installation.” He added, “This project is not only going to serve a tremendous purpose, but is also going to be a model project for us, not only here in the Commonwealth, but in the nation, to follow and learn so many lessons from.”

Echoing Secretary Beaton’s sentiment, Secretary Henderson said, “This microgrid at Otis is a model for the rest of our bases to look at to find an alternate energy source to build resiliency and to assure the mission.”

Secretary Henderson went on to say, “I’m impressed by the leadership here, to have the vision to do something like this in the first place; I’m impressed by the incredible teamwork, led by Major Doyle – and the number of teams and people that had to come together to get this done.”