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SwRI to demonstrate use of electric vehicles as part of emergency power microgrid under US Army SPIDERS program


Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is a member of a team that was recently awarded a $7-million contract from the US Army Corps of Engineers to demonstrate integration of electric vehicles, generators and solar arrays to supply emergency power for Fort Carson, Colo.

The project is part of a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) called the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS)—a joint effort between the US Departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security. SPIDERS aims to create a resilient, more reliable microgrid designed to protect against extended power outages caused by natural disasters, accidents or attacks—and, ultimately, to enhance electric power surety for national security.

Focused on three distinct military installations—Joint Base Pearl Harbor/Hickam, Hawaii; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii—SPIDERS is to enable those facilities to operate independent from the bulk power grid (i.e., “islanded mode”) for extended time periods, with maximum assurance that cybersecurity is uncompromised.

SPIDERS uses the conceptual designs of an Energy Surety Microgrid developed by Sandia National Laboratories, and has four specific goals for electric power surety at US military installations:

  1. To protect critical infrastructure from power loss in the event of physical or cyber disruptions to the bulk electric grid.

  2. To provide reliable backup power during emergencies by integrating renewables and other distributed generation sources into the microgrid.

  3. To ensure that critical operations can be sustained during prolonged utility power outages.

  4. To manage electrical power and consumption at military installations more efficiently, thus reducing petroleum demand, carbon emissions, and transportation costs.

The Fort Carson team, led by Kansas City, Mo.-based Burns and McDonnell Engineering Company, will build a microgrid out of existing electrical infrastructure at the Army post, integrating a 2-megawatt photovoltaic (PV) array, diesel generator sets and electric vehicles to provide a self-contained, energy-sustainable capability during electrical grid disruptions.

The goal for the SwRI portion of this 18-month effort is to demonstrate the ability of electric vehicles to serve as energy storage devices in support of a microgrid and provide grid ancillary services, such as peak shaving and demand response, during non-microgrid operation.

—Sean Mitchem, SwRI project manager and a principal analyst in SwRI’s Automation and Data Systems Division

Challenges of this project include using electric vehicles to absorb excess generated power from the base’s photovoltaic array and reduce the base’s energy bill by integrating vehicle energy storage into the energy management strategy, while continuing to serve as an active part of the base vehicle fleet, said co-researcher Joe Redfield, a principal engineer in SwRI’s Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division.

The project will also be one of the first large-scale demonstrations of the new Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard-based DC fast-charge technology, Redfield said.

Project objectives for SwRI involve developing specialized software to aggregate and manage a fleet of electric vehicles as energy storage devices, as well as helping to develop interfaces between the vehicles and their charging equipment based on the newly emerging SAE J1772 DC Combo Connector II fast-charging technology standard.

The SwRI project also involves collaboration with staff from the Advanced Vehicle Technology Section within SwRI’s Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division, as part of the Energy Storage Technology Center, a multi-division center at SwRI focused on research, development and testing of batteries and other energy storage systems.




Disregarding the modest conversion efficiency issues, the 2 way energy flow idea is captivating. And, if I were an electric car owner, I'd be conditionally OK with such a program. The first real problem is the reduction of battery cycles. To date, there are no batteries with effective infinite life. The other issue would concern my "less than fully charged" battery at unusual times. Consider a need for a fully charged battery at 4PM due to a necessary "pop up" trip. Yet, the grid system withdrew power and a less than full situation results.

The idea of having such a system to cover emergencies is fantastic. There may even be ways to run cars like the Volt for even more power. I think the Fisker Karma has a 175KW generator!

Plus having a de-facto grid tie inverter capable of 2 way power flow could also lend itself to solar (or other alternative) backfeeding.

Very cool idea, with much promise.

Roger Pham

A BEV or a large-battery-capacity PHEV will face calendar life battery issue before its cycle life will be used up. As such, being able to rent out the battery capacity is a good thing, to recoup some of the investment into the battery pack before it will be lost thru aging of the pack.



That's an interesting theory and I'm inclined to mostly agree. But, the limited experience we currently have with BEV's (Nissan leaf and various motorcycles) seem to demonstrate just the opposite. Leaf owners are seeing real decline in capability. The batteries capacities are declining based on cycles and/or miles driven. One way around this is to "pad" the capacity. This is currently prevalent in the aviation industry. Where a battery "must" meet certain capacity specifications. What happens is that the manufacturer sets an artificially low capacity specification, one that an older battery (or one that has been abused) can meet with ease. But, the actual decline in performance is real.

Fred H

The cost of using the idle capacity of BEVs and the resulting more frequent battery replacements is more than balanced by the savings elsewhere in the grid and microgrid.

Plus the decreased voulnerability of a more decentralized energy storage.

In a civilian version, the reimbursement from the utility company for resupplying the grid would need to be higher than the increased cost of battery replacement.

Convenience problems with vehicle battery state of charge can be mostly solved with intelligent individual programming of time and charge limits.

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