Defense Spotlight: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Works for Energy Independence

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island (MCRD PI) holds the distinction of being the second-oldest post in the entire Marine Corps.

The venerable military training ground lies five miles south of Beaufort, South Carolina, and has been operational since October 1915, when the Marines relocated the recruit depot there under Major General George Barnett.

As the best of the best, Marines are trained to be ready for anything, and MCRD PI has applied the same principle to powering their grid.

At the end of 2016, MCRD PI announced that they had re-evaluated the way that their facilities were powered and were preparing for a number of energy-related upgrades under a new contract.

Ameresco, a company that specializes in public sector energy projects, won the contract and began construction on a microgrid for the military installation last year. The microgrid is controlled and functions independently from the rest of the grid, and because of this, it is much more secure than traditional grid power.


In a statement when the project began, Nicole A. Bulgarino, senior vice president and general manager, federal solutions for Ameresco said, “Ameresco is proud to support the mission of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island through energy assurance and new infrastructure.”

She continued, “This project will provide MCRD a reliable source of heat and power combined with advanced controls and energy storage technology to allow the site to operate in island-mode during a loss of utility connection ensuring operation of mission-critical systems.”

The United States is the number one target for cyberattacks, and MCRD PI’s microgrid project is part of a larger Department of Energy (DoE) initiative to secure America’s power infrastructure against threats. Last year, DoE announced a new $7.5 million investment to strengthen the defense of the national grid. In addition, CRES Senior Advisor and former NH Senator Kelly Ayotte co-authored this piece with CRES Forum’s Charles Hernick on the role our energy infrastructure and electric grids – and even microgrids like the one at Parris Island – being of utmost importance to our national security. She also spoke with Ameresco’s Nicole Bulgarino at an Atlantic Council event last fall on the topic. You can watch the stream here:

With independently operated power, military installations’ microgrids are much harder to infiltrate, and with a renewable energy source, the microgrid functions on its own—without the benefit of the main grid. These traits are essential for military installations to bolster their ability to overcome any potential threats.

The microgrid project at MCRD PI features a number of independent energy resources, including:

  • 3.5 MW natural gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant
  • 6.7 MW-DC of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels
  • 8 MWh of battery energy storage
  • 3.5 MW backup diesel generators
  • Two 30,000 lb/hour dual-fuel backup boilers

These resources will effectively secure MCRD PI’s power supply against foreign interference at a time when cyberattacks are becoming commonplace. More and more, military installations are eyeing independent, renewable microgrids as the answer to fighting against cyberattacks that threaten our energy sources, and we applaud our military leaders for their ingenuity and commitment to advanced energy technologies.

For more stories on our military’s use of smart energy solutions, check out more in our Defense Spotlight series.

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