Mobile Microgrid Makes Appearance at EAA AirVenture 2018

As the sun slowly crept above the Western horizon, you could hear the sounds of P-51 Mustangs firing up their Packard V-1650 supercharged engines. Ahead of them on the runway, four large and very intimidating B-24 Liberators taxied, ready to begin their morning operation.

If you weren’t distracted by the vibrating of your cell phone or the roar of jet engines, you might believe it was 1943 and you were on the Western front in World War II. Instead, this was EAA AirVenture 2018 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin – billed as the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration, and turning the site into the busiest airport in the world for seven days each year. This event celebrates aviation’s past, but also promotes new technology and novelty. It was the perfect venue to unveil Faith Technologies’ new mobile microgrid unit.

Earlier this year, Faith Technologies and Schneider Electric unveiled one of the most sophisticated and resilient microgrids in the United States at Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton, Wisconsin. That microgrid is unique in that there are five distributed energy resources (DERs) to power the facility. The idea behind Faith Technologies’ new mobile microgrid unit was to replicate what was accomplished at Bubolz, but make it mobile and scalable. Our mobile unit uses three DERs, a 10kw Altergy fuel cell, 144kw of battery storage and 9kw of solar PV, built/mounted within an 8×20 foot storage container which can be transported to any location where resilient power is needed.

At EAA AirVenture, Faith displayed the unit, demonstrated how it works, and shared information about what a microgrid is and why this technology is more efficient, resilient and cost effective than the traditional grid. The appearance of the unit with its large, movable solar panels that flank the entire south side of the container sparked many conversations with visitors about how this mobile unit could be used. We spoke with people about using it for emergency management response, peak shaving power at manufacturing facilities, vital back-up power to mission critical facilities and many other uses. What we did not anticipate was an immediate opportunity to charge the batteries of two innovative and cutting edge pieces of aviation technology: the SureFly Hybrid personal octocopter by Workhorse, and the Pipistrel Alpha all-electric airplane.

Faith Technologies and EAA have a long history. Faith has been the organization’s electrical contractor for more than 35 years, and our team is familiar with most of the electrical work running through the air show grounds. Both organizations have evolved greatly over the years, so how fitting was it that Faith was there to charge today’s technologically advanced aircraft using 100% renewable energy captured from the sun and stored on a bank of smart Panasonic batteries? Once they were rolled up alongside the microgrid, it was only a few minutes before power connections were made and charging began. Within an hour, each was fully charged and ready to fly. This demonstration was a testament to what is possible with the generation, storage and management of on-site power. Check out some photos from our microgrid display at this link.

At the onset of World War II, the technological challenge placed upon the North American aviation industry was to create aircraft that would fly faster, higher and farther than any other aircraft in the history of mankind. Today our challenge may not seem as grave, however, with escalating carbon emission standards being put in place and the resiliency of the traditional power grid being tested, it’s imperative that we continue to find better ways to generate, store and manage on-site renewable power.

What application do you see for the use of a mobile microgrid? Charging cars? Powering stages for festivals? I would love to hear your ideas; the possibilities are endless!