Partnership with Industry creates a more resilient Mountain Home Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Matthew H. Scheel
  • 366 Fighter Wing Civil Engineer Squadron

Partnership with Industry creates a more resilient Mountain Home Air Force Base

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho - On February 14, 2021, 170 million Americans across the country found themselves under a winter weather advisory, later nicknamed “Winter Storm Uri”. Approximately 5.2 million homes and businesses lost power due to grid failures and more than a dozen military bases from Texas to New York were forced to close.

In the wake of the storm, Brigadier General John Allen Jr, commander of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, was called to testify to Congress in regards to installation resiliency and the Air Force’s ability to operate in manmade and natural disasters. In his sworn testimony, Allen acknowledged that across the Air Force enterprise there was a serious lack of redundancy in electrical infrastructure.

While Uri left Mountain Home Air Force Base (MHAFB) largely unscathed, Mr. Greg Fagan, the installation’s Facility Systems Chief, was not content. An avid and experienced Idaho angler, he was familiar with the reliable clean energy generated by Idaho Power’s fleet of 17 hydropower plants on the Snake River and its tributaries.

Seeing an opportunity, Fagan pitched a partnership with Idaho Power to expand MHAFB’s resiliency by way of a solution known as “islanding” – sending power directly from one of those hydropower plants to MHAFB in the event of a grid failure. Rather than potentially enduring a blackout, MHAFB could receive this dedicated power quickly. “I’m confident we can maintain electrical power to the critical facilities for a while, but eventually, fuel for the back-up generators starts to become a limitation. That’s why this islanding project is so important” said Fagan.

On April 12th 2022, MHAFB and Idaho Power passed the initial phase to test whether a nearby dam could power the base if the grid experienced a widespread outage. The next phase includes simulating a full electrical load between MHAFB and the dam. If successful, Idaho Power and the Air Force will begin negotiating an ongoing islanding agreement that would require additional coordination with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

“These kinds of innovative solutions are exactly what we strive for when we partner with our customers and meet their unique energy needs,” said Steve Floyd, Idaho Power Key Account Energy Advisor. “Mountain Home Air Force Base is a key asset in the security of our state and nation, so we’ll do everything we can to make sure they have power when they need it.”