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Combat readiness amid Guam's unstable power supply

Updated: Jan 7



 

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan


The stability of the power supply on Guam is crucial to the military’s combat readiness. However, the current predicament of the Guam Power Authority’s infrastructure leaves the military in a precarious situation.


“While DOD has some military-owned and -operated electrical power capability on the island, GPA is the primary provider of electrical power for the U.S. military,” according to the Defense Infrastructure and Readiness report released by the Congressional Research Service in August 2023.


The U.S. military accounts for about 20 percent of electricity use on Guam.


“The readiness of U.S. military personnel and facilities on Guam are linked in numerous ways to the civilian-owned and -operated infrastructure outside of military installations,” the report said.


On Jan. 4, GPA implemented another rotating outage schedule due to limited generation capacity.


Officials said baseload unit Cabras 1 sustained two boiler tube leaks and was temporarily taken offline early this week.


The congressional think tank recognized that the military facilities rely on a grid that is powered by aging infrastructure that constantly needs repairs. In March 2023, GPA warned the Navy about the possibility of rolling electrical outages.


The CRS noted that federal funds are available for the expansion of Guam's power infrastructure to support the Navy’s power demand. For fiscal 2023, Congress authorized $34.4 million in military construction funds for the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program to build an electrical distribution system for Guam.


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The project’s plan includes underground cables connecting the Polaris Point Submarine Base on Guam to the Navy-owned power plant at Orote Point. It also includes emergency back-up power generation capabilities and a SCADA-control system to create a microgrid that can operate independently of the island’s larger electrical grid.


The government of Guam has also received money from other federal sources, including $6.3 million for energy infrastructure improvements via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.


Renewable power sources on Guam include solar farms in Dandan and Mangilao. An additional phase of the solar farm development was postponed in 2022 when the Navy said it needed to use land previously designated for the solar farm as a location for new missile defense system sites.


The Navy and GPA signed the lease agreement in 2017, covering a total of 164 acres of land in separate sites for renewable energy projects. The leased properties include four sites totaling 93 acres on Naval Base Guam and 71 acres on Route 3 in South Finegayan.  Under a previous agreement, these military-owned properties would be the sites of photovoltaic installations that GPA proposed to build in partnership with the Navy.


The proposed location of the 40MW solar project is on the Missile Defense Agency's list of possible sites for an integrated missile defense infrastructure consisting of multiple mobile components, such as a sensor, command and control and interceptors that will be located across Guam.


In 2022, Congress authorized o the Department of the Interior to consider off-shore wind leases for Guam. “One challenge to widespread use of wind-generated power for Guam is the island’s risk for earthquakes and typhoons, which could make construction of reliable wind turbines difficult, the CRS report said.


The think tank noted that GPA has considered nuclear power options as a way to support Guam’s energy needs. In 2012, the GPA entered into a memorandum of understanding with NuScale Power, a developer of nuclear power technology and small modular reactors.


With a basic conceptual design, NuScale proposed a modular SMR with the reactors installed underground but the development and deployment of SMRs has not progressed.




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