U.S. Air Force researchers will develop a microgrid demonstration project for renewable fuel sources at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam under a new $20 million agreement announced today by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

Under the deal, the Air Force Research Lab and the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies will create a “microgrid testbed” for development and testing of alternative fuel sources – a project Schatz said will strengthen energy resilience for the 154th Wing of the Hawaii Air National Guard and possibly have implications far beyond that.

Ballentine - Schatz

Asst. Secretary of the Air Force Miranda Ballentine, center, and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, right, tour Pearl Harbor-Hickam facilities that will be part of a microgrid demonstration project focused on development of alternative fuel sources.

“Assured access to energy is essential to the Air Force’s mission. Without it, the Air Force could not fly its aircraft or power the flight simulators, alert facilities and other equipment that are critical to sustaining the readiness of our airmen at installations like Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam,” said Schatz in a statement released after he and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Miranda Ballentine toured base facilities that will be included in the work.

The microgrid testbed project “will help ensure that the Air National Guard has access to the energy it needs to execute its defense and homeland security missions, while providing a proof of concept that alternative energy and microgrid technologies can support the Air Force’s broader energy security goals,” he said.

Initial work will entail development of a demonstration project with electricity provided by an on-base hydrogen fuel cell source and other planned renewable energy projects. The hydrogen fuel component is an outgrowth of ongoing joint work between the Air Force and HCATT and dovetails with state goals. In state legislation passed earlier this year, the director of HCATT was designated as the State Hydrogen Implementation Coordinator, responsible for promoting “the expansion of hydrogen-based energy in Hawaii.”

While the demonstration project will directly support the 154th Wing of the Hawaii Air National Guard, including maintenance, readiness and operations of the 199th Fighter Squadron, it has implications for Hawaii, as well, according to Gov. David Ige.

“The U.S. military has made a significant commitment to renewable energy in Hawaii, and this cooperative agreement is an acknowledgement that Hawaii is a natural testbed for the development of alternative fuels,” said Ige through the statement. “The agreement will benefit the Air Force and the state. I thank Sen. Schatz for his effective advocacy on the Appropriations Committee and our military decision makers for their consistent leadership in the drive to a renewable energy future.”

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