news | 27 June 2023

Enhanced Energy Storage and Intelligent Power Management Systems for Defense Department Tactical Microgrids

STEEP Photo for Release
The primary objective of the STEEP program is to develop a modular, vehicle transportable system that provides various forms of energy storage and management for tactical and mobile microgrids.

(June 27, 2027) As the Department of Defense (DoD) increases operational capabilities in austere and remote locations, our ability to effectively store and intelligently manage tactical energy in these environments will be critical to mission success. To effectively function in these locations, defense units will be required to operate over longer distances, while using and overseeing a growing range of energy-intensive platforms that will have increasingly greater demand for reliable, efficient power. 

Without energy storage, operators often run redundant “backup” systems, which leads to increases in fuel consumption, operations, and maintenance. To reduce these logistical challenges and meet the Military Services’ tactical energy management goals, Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has partnered with Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) to award contracts to Cummins Power Generation Inc. and GM Defense, LLC. These awards will fund efforts toward the STEEP (Stable Tactical Expeditionary Electric Power) Program.

The primary objective of the STEEP program is to develop a modular, vehicle transportable system that provides various forms of energy storage and management for tactical / mobile microgrids. The system will have embedded control functionality that provides improved grid stability and reliability while also providing the ability to conduct silent watch operations, and peak load shaving. The STEEP system will be coupled with existing Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source (AMMPS) generator sets equipped with Advanced Digital Control Systems (ADCS), enabling efficient Tactical Electric Power (TEP) generation by ensuring that generators operate at or near optimum efficiency and reducing generator-operating hours.

“These commercial technologies will provide the DoD with new capabilities to more efficiently manage our tactical microgrids by optimizing our power management in remote environments. This translates to reduced supply chain constraints, less down time for the warfighter, and increased energy availability in the field.” Jack Ryan, Program Manager for DIU.

At present, the DoD is heavily dependent on mobile generators in a microgrid configuration for its tactical power systems, but has been lacking a systems-integrated energy storage solution that can enhance grid resilience, fuel efficiency, and optimize tactical generator performance. Modern capabilities, like the AMMPS generator equipped with ADCS, incorporate advanced features to enhance its operational effectiveness and efficiency through reduced noise and weight, improved power consumption, embedded diagnostics and simplified maintenance. Despite these improvements, military-grade generators cannot fully capture the energy produced nor can they efficiently regulate output to reduce imbalances between energy demand and energy production. 

STEEP is an alternative energy storage capability which increases tactical generator fuel-efficiency enabling dispersed units to operate independently for longer periods of time between fuel resupply, thereby decreasing exposure to supply line threats, and periods of silent watch operations that eliminate the noise, heat, and emissions signature of coupled tactical generators.  These efficiencies have the added benefit in garrison/training application of reduced fuel usage/costs with the follow-on benefit of reduced carbon emissions.

The STEEP program  will be ready for full scale operational testing, demonstration, and evaluation within 18-24 months.