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Guest blog: Nate Lowery, TM3 Systems: From Fort Irwin, to Camp Grayling and beyond: demonstrating smart power for remote military bases

By Posted on August 6, 2013

In 2006, NextEnergy was contracted by TARDEC and the Defense Logistics Agency to develop equipment to provide US-grid quality power in remote locations using renewable and conventional power sources. An expert team was assembled and after a successful 18-month field test at Fort. Irwin, Calif, the demonstration showed fuel savings and overall feasibility of the technology.

During the demonstration, it became obvious there was a need for the product – this was during the height of the Middle East conflict and the Department of Defense (DoD) was spending $1 Billion per month overseas just to power generators. Unfortunately, the size and weight of the equipment was prohibitive, requiring a 20-foot long container for shipping.

Realizing the market potential for more intelligent management of remote power systems, the proverbial “cocktail napkin” moment occurred over dinner one evening, and the result was the Tactical Modular Mobile Microgrid – TM3 Systems’ first product offering.

The team determined that power management could be more intelligently delivered in smaller physical packages that were modular, connectable, and logistically-friendly. The building blocks of this system are four-foot cubes capable of managing up to 360kW of power. By metering and controlling both inputs (generators, solar panels, and battery banks), and outputs (downstream loads), this system creates a “microgrid,” which is more reliable, efficient, configurable, and controllable than a typical remote power system.

While the remote microgrid is currently TM3’s primary application, the types and number of power sources with which our systems interface continue to evolve and increase. That’s where the Camp Grayling demonstration project came into play. TM3 Systems partnered with NextEnergy and General Dynamic Land Systems (GDLS) to demonstrate the first step in the future ground vehicle support system.

NextEnergy made the connection between the parties, and GDLS leveraged the resources of its innovative private sector incubator “mc2” to host the project team during the collaboration. TM3 Systems modified its first prototype system to accept DC power from the GDLS eStryker, and together, we powered a demonstration position at the Camp Grayling 100 Year Anniversary event.

This was a great opportunity to collaborate with an industry leader like General Dynamics and a not-for-profit like NextEnergy to demonstrate our technical capabilities. Ultimately, the most important benefit of our microgrid power system is that it creates an intelligent power “backbone,” ensuring the remote user system control, visibility and flexibility. Additionally, the use of various power sources such as dissimilar fossil fuel generators, solar arrays, and batteries reduce fuel consumption by 25% or more while supplying uninterrupted power to critical assets in remote locations.

TM3 is grateful to have demonstrated the ability to interface with mobile battery packs on electric drive combat vehicles and further enhanced our mission to provide “Smart Power, Anywhere.”

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