Long-Time Defense Contractor Unveils Microgrid Lab
FRIDLEY, Minnesota — One of the Army’s modernization goals is to install a microgrid on each of its installations by 2035. Cummins, a longtime supplier of generators to the U.S. military, recently opened a microgrid testing laboratory that could help the Army reach its power goal.
A microgrid is an energy system “made up of sources, loads, connections and controls” connected together, said Cummins lab manager Corey Bergendahl. Pulling energy from a variety of sources, a microgrid can function as part of the main power grid and maintain power if a grid goes down or can provide power to facilities or communities that are not connected to the main grid.
Cummins’ new Power Integration Center is a 20,000-square-foot space at the company’s power generation facility in Minnesota. It contains an outdoor test area, a main switchgear room, an electrical mezzanine and an engineering control room, allowing Cummins personnel and clients to test different microgrid configurations.
“We wanted to build our microgrid lab in a way that it was not just a single-use case,” Bergendahl said at the center’s opening event.
“We actually have here a facility that can be reconfigured into almost infinite [possibilities] of different microgrid topologies and power system layouts,” he said.
Cummins has provided power solutions to the U.S. military since World War II, according to the company’s director of government and military business Doreen Swanson. The company currently produces the Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source generators for the Army.
The center can be a major resource for the service, said Swanson.
“We’ve actually brought our Army customer into this lab to show them the capability,” she said. “We know that they’re starting to install microgrids and introduce battery storage, but … they don’t understand the use case yet.”
At the facility, the Army could “put different load profiles into those big load banks” and “start testing some different capabilities,” Swanson added.
“When does it make sense to integrate battery storage? Does it make sense to integrate solar power?” she said. “So, I see this lab helping in that way.”
In the center’s controlled environment, engineers can also safely “push the microgrid to the limits” during testing without causing any disturbance, Bergendahl added.