By Capt. John Kliem, P.E., CEM, M.SAME, USN (Ret.)  

The peaceful island of Kauai, located west of O’ahu, is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. It is steeped in not only natural beauty, but also the deep-seated traditions of its community. Tourists flock to enjoy a tranquil, unspoiled piece of luscious paradise. On the western shore, an occasional powerful rush of air rustles the leaves and stirs the waves around the Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) as an arc of white smoke trails the successful launch of a test missile, revealing another quality of Kauai as an important strategic location to the Navy and the nation. This is where cutting-edge technology and nature meet to enhance national security.

PMRF is the world’s largest instrumented multi-environmental range, capable of providing complex and realistic training scenarios in support of surface, subsurface, air and space operations simultaneously.

The installation provides integrated range services in a modern, multi-threat, multi-dimensional environment and provides safe conduct and evaluation of training and test/evaluation missions. Unlike other test and training ranges in the United States, PMRF is unique in that it can simultaneously support surface, subsurface, air and space training scenarios.

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter participates in an exercise off the coast of Kauai during Rim of the Pacific 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Ens. Joseph Pfaff 



The Department of the Navy and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) recognizes reliable power quality is vital to support this critical mission. Power quality is related to fluctuations in the electrical supply in the form of momentary interruptions, voltage sags, or swells. Think of when your lights flicker during a storm—the event will get your attention, and maybe remind you to buy a surge protector, but it is little more than a momentary nuisance for the average household. The stakes are much higher for an installation entrusted with conducting energy-heavy, highly intricate military testing and training exercises.

The island of Kauai by nature must be self-reliant. Improvements to the electrical system fall to power companies like Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC). With a growing resident population and tourist industry to support, KIUC recognized that power quality must remain a priority.

Driven by their common interest, NAVFAC and KIUC began exploring solutions that would benefit Kauai and reinforce PMRF’s mission readiness. Additional generation and infrastructure upgrades were identified as the tools needed to achieve both parties’ objectives.

Any generation project undertaken would also need to align with Hawaii’s broader move toward renewable energy and respect the natural treasures of the islands. However, the project would also represent an opportunity for modernization and efficiency at PMRF.


In December 2017, NAVFAC and KIUC signed an agreement to incorporate distributed energy resources on PMRF grounds, which would support local base and regional grid stability. KIUC will build, own and operate a 19.3-MW direct current solar facility, coupled with 70-MWh of battery storage on leased PMRF land.

PMRF will receive in-kind consideration for the value of the land, in the form of an express feeder to connect to the new generation asset, and automated control capabilities that allow the base to operate in island mode during specific times of need. This will increase power quality, provide access to on-base generation and storage, and red reduce the need to use backup diesel generators.


Combined, the solar facility and battery system will generate enough electricity to power roughly 6,000 homes. Further, these synergistic systems greatly exceed the current and projected power needs of the entire installation, and are therefore capable of supporting substantial load growth should PMRF’s mission and electrical requirements change in the future. As designed, they will not only provide the installation with power during a grid outage for an indefinite duration of time to support mission-critical activities, but they will also provide direct access to the locally generated highquality power to those same critical activities when the grid is up.


During normal operations, the power generated on PMRF will be fed to the grid during peak usage hours in the evening to supply all of KIUC’s customers. In the event of a grid outage, excess power that is not required by the base, and that can be exported to the grid, will be used by the community. The project will move KIUC closer to its goal of having 70 percent renewable generation by 2030, and will offset the use of 2.8-million-gal of diesel fuel for power generation on an annual basis.

The project goes a step further in supporting mission assurance. Many of PMRF’s activities are short-term, but energy intensive. Having access to the solar power generation and battery energy storage facility secures its ability to conduct mission essential operations. The Department of the Navy and KIUC addressed this opportunity by including innovative microgrid architecture and technologies. Once implemented, the base will have access to a microgrid capable of providing uninterrupted energy to support mission-critical facilities and testing. KIUC will furnish and install automated control capabilities that allow PMRF to operate in islanded mode from the KIUC grid during critical missions.

The project will move KIUC closer to its goal of having 70 percent renewable generation by 2030, and will offset the use of 2.8-million-gal of diesel fuel for power generation on an annual basis.

The microgrid system will give PMRF the ability to meet the demand of all the connected loads. During operation in islanded mode, all PMRF loads will be served by the solar and battery system, making the base no longer reliant upon diesel generators as their primary source of power for such tests. This enables PMRF to phase out the use of diesel generators and provides opportunities for operations and maintenance cost savings.


The microgrid project at Barking Sands exemplifies the vast potential of collaborations between the military and industry. By fostering these relationships, the Department of the Navy has realized several areas where its needs and interests align with those of the servicing utility, which in turn, results in unique opportunities to build and fund projects to support the mission.

In Kauai, the need to increase energy resilience of PMRF was synonymous with increasing the energy resilience of the community. By working together to develop an innovative solution, the Navy and KIUC will not only bring advanced technology to the grid and to PMRF, but will preserve the natural wonders of the island.

Capt. John Kliem, P.E., CEM, M.SAME, USN (Ret.), is Executive Director, Resilient Energy Program Office, Department of the Navy;

[Article first published in the March-April 2018 issue of The Military Engineer.]