NCBC Public Affairs

During Hurricane Zeta last year, the Naval Construction Battalion Center was plunged into darkness as the base lost power in the middle of the night due to power poles snapping like dry twigs all around the base. It would take nearly a week to recover the whole base and re-establish power.

The sudden loss of power threw base emergency response personnel into action.

Luckily the base emergency plan was reliant on a series of backup generators for the most critical emergent needs. Unfortunately, there was some degradation of services and facilities due to the nature of the generators that were tethered to individual buildings only. If a generator went down, that building had no backup.

The base has been working on a project called a “microgrid”.

“The purpose of the microgrid is to provide uninterrupted power generated internally on the base to energize the most essential emergency functions of the base,” said Ron Jenkins, NCBC’s base energy manager.

The microgrid is a function that will provide an extra redundancy to the electrical grid to harden energy weaknesses. Being a separate power grid, the base could also help the local community in times of dire need.

“This project is a partnership between the base and Southern Company. This would give Mississippi Power the ability to load shed some of their energy constraints by using the grid to lower the base’s energy needs temporarily,” said Jenkins.

On Jun 10, the base plans to exercise this capability while simultaneously using the opportunity to officially commission the microgrid system.

The power feed to the base will be cut and then the system will be tested.

“The Blackstart exercise is a chance for us to evaluate the state of our backup systems and uninterruptable power supply systems,” said Jenkins.

After the exercise, which will be the first conducted in Navy Region Southeast and one of the first in the entire Navy Installation Command, the base will look at the capabilities and deficiencies of the system to troubleshoot the system before the meat of the 2021 hurricane season.

“Areas that the microgrid doesn’t provide adequate backup will be examined as well as areas that do not come back online automatically. Those deficiencies will be able to be identified and we will be able to work solutions to correct this problem,” said Jenkins.

The microgrid system provides energy from a network of diesel generators and solar power.