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This Microgrid on Wheels will Soon be on the Go for the US Military in Africa

March 11, 2019

Go Electric’s new microgrid on wheels is a box that four people can lift and commission — and then move, if needed.

microgrid on wheels


The mobile microgrid, now under development, also comes on a trailer.

And it can run in silent mode. Best of all, it can reduce the use of diesel and other fossil fuels significantly — by up to 80 percent while operating 24/7.

If it sounds like it’s perfect for military bases, that’s because it was designed for the US military.

Go Electric — which has secured about $8 million in military contracts to date — has been awarded an $887,535 Small Business Innovation Research Rapid Innovation Fund contract to develop a modular microgrid for the US Africa Command (Africom), said Lisa Laughner, president and CEO, Go Electric.

“Our standard solution is a turnkey microgrid. Most of what we’ve done has been at stationary buildings and bases. This is a turnkey microgrid on wheels,” she said.

This project is also Go Electric’s first foreign military contract. Africom is responsible for all U.S. Department of Defense operations on the African continent, its island nations and surrounding waters.

Why a microgrid on wheels

Employing Go Electric’s mobile technology in Africa is the second phase of a project that began in 2017, when the company was awarded a contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers. This phase aims to create a microgrid that can handle the harsh environments of the front lines and also be flexible enough to incorporate numerous assets, some of them already on site.

Africom has a need for mobile power for numerous purposes, said Laughner. The first is for operating bases in Africa. Another is for disaster relief.

“If a remote community needs a power generating system set up with lots of different kinds of power assets, this could be used as disaster relief or to get a remote area electrified until a permanent solution can come in,” she said.

One of the main goals of the project is to reduce the amount of time diesel or other fossil-fuel generators operate, reducing fuel costs and emissions.

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“We utilize everything we are attached to and try to run as few generators as possible,” Laughner said.

The company has demonstrated 80 percent fuel reduction with the system, which translates to important emission reductions, said Laughner.

Using less diesel or fossil fuel also benefits the military because fuel caravans are often targeted by terrorists.

The latest version of the company’s microgrid will integrate power from existing sites, including different types of generators, renewable energy and energy storage to provide clean power, said Laughner.

“This latest contract takes this microgrid technology, and adds flexibility,” she said. High-voltage or low-voltage batteries can be used in the microgrid.

“As we started at looking at larger and larger microgrids, we were asked if we could integrate Tesla batteries or other pieces of equipment,” Laughner said.

HIVE integrates up to 31 distributed energy resources

microgrid on wheels

Hive Switchgear. Photo courtesy of Go Electric

Go Electric recently unveiled its Hive product, which allows the company to integrate 31 different DERs.

The Hive “microgrid-enabled switchgear” aims to provide energy reliability and resiliency when the grid is disrupted. It brings all the DERs into a central connection point, which the company says simplifies the process of designing and installing microgrids.

Previously, Go Electric’s microgrid was only integrated with a battery energy storage product. Now if the customer wants, for example, a Tesla battery, Go Electric can integrate that into the system using its “Hive” switchgear.

“Usually, on military bases, there are multiple generators on the microgrid circuit, some form of PV, and at least one battery system,” Laughner said.

A boxed microgrid is a BUG

During the process of developing the microgrid on wheels, the company’s engineers have enjoyed naming the two options, following in the initial-rich style of the military.

For the microgrid in a box, “BUG,” is the term — for “boxed microgrid.” The engineers named the other version a ROPS,or ruggedized operational power system.

The two types of microgrid on wheels are basically a box on a trailer or a box that can be lifted, said Laughner. “You unload it on an operating base, connect it to generators, renewables, or batteries. And once everything is connected and turned on, our technology senses what it is attached to, optimizes the DER, and does real time monitoring of loads,” she said.