How an FDA Facility Saw 500+ Days of Continuous Power Despite Many Local Outages

by | Jan 11, 2019

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) protects the public health by, among other things, promoting the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use. The ability to maintain power and continue operations without significant disruption throughout its facilities is an important consideration of the agency’s success.

The FDA’s Federal Research Center at White Oak in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a state-of-the-art, 3.9 million square foot, $1.5 billion offices, and lab compound. This year, the White Oak facility celebrated more than 500 days of campus-wide, uninterrupted power. During this time period, the LEED-certified White Oak campus and its central utilities plant separated from the electric utility grid more than 100 times to provide energy during Nor’easters, “bomb cyclones,” and other, more localized power reliability events, achieving 99.9% uptime reliability. The winter storms of 2018 resulted in multiple outages across the state of Maryland, but the White Oak campus and its facilities experienced no significant disruptions.

ESPC Project Adds Microgrid Capable of Disconnecting from Traditional Power Grid

White Oak’s success in maintaining uninterrupted power is, in large part, a direct result of a multiphase, $305 million energy savings performance contract (ESPC) project. Working with Honeywell, the research center divided the campus into five groups of interconnected buildings with a shared utility infrastructure that is energy efficient, more secure and resilient, and capable of scaling to meet future needs.

As part of the ESPC project, Honeywell installed a multi-fuel, integrated central utility plant microgrid capable of operating the campus despite disruptions to the external utility grid. Microgrids are localized grids that can disconnect from the traditional power grid to operate independently, helping important infrastructure remain energy-autonomous when power on the grid is unavailable or unreliable, as well as proactively monitoring the external grid and predicted weather patterns. The ESPC also outfitted White Oak to help it be prepared for, respond to, and recover from external power-related threats.

Team Tailors Project for Specific Needs

Through this relationship, a team of industry experts was assembled to conduct extensive engineering analyses. The team identified the need to implement early warning weather monitoring, lightning grounding protection, redundant controls for full-capacity underground electric and thermal distribution, and improved demand response capabilities to separate into “island mode” in approximately half the time. The plants and the campus they support are now better suited to meet the security, electricity, heating and cooling needs of the facilities within it, and are equipped with more secure controls and outfitted with a thermal energy tank that doubles as a cooling water source.

These technologies and microgrid operations help to strengthen the energy infrastructure at White Oak, working to further the resiliency and reliability of the campus through a more continuous power supply. As evidenced by White Oak’s success in maintaining uninterrupted power for over a year, the project more effectively allows the campus to focus on its mission, while enhancing resilience to external power-related threats.

“Two years ago, GSA, FDA, Air Force, and Honeywell committed to making power reliability a number one priority,” says Christine Ewing, director of the Federal Research Center at White Oak Campus.

“The milestone we are celebrating on campus is a tribute to the power of teamwork and commitment from all stakeholders.”

By Ed Wojtowicz, Honeywell Energy Services

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