A roundup of projects and efforts to power change in Army energy
By Army AL&T Staff
Energy is one of the most important ways that the Army is going to get anywhere, much less to 2025 and beyond. The Army’s goal to deploy 1 gigawatt of renewable energy projects by 2025 will help ensure that its installations achieve high levels of energy security in the event of conventional grid outages.
The military is also congressionally mandated to draw 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, and the Army is the biggest single user of energy in the United States. Whether it’s through reduction and efficiency or through secure renewable resources, the Army recognizes that it must cut energy usage, which is why its Energy Initiatives Task Force—now the Army Office of Energy Initiatives, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment—launched the Net Zero Energy Installations initiative in 2010. “Net zero” means that an installation uses no more energy than it produces. The Army partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assess opportunities to increase energy security and, in a competitive application process, selected nine installations to pilot Net Zero Energy by 2020.
While challenges remain, there is exciting and creative work happening around the Army to increase reliance on renewables and reduce reliance on coal, gas, petroleum and other fossil fuels—not to mention reducing the Soldier’s needs for power on the battlefield. Army AL&T magazine reached out to learn more, and here’s what we learned from Army organizations near and far.
SMART POWER, SMART PARTNERSHIPS
A fourfold increase in power interruptions on Army installations over the last 10 years has accelerated the Army’s efforts to get smarter—much smarter—about how it acquires the energy that powers its facilities. The interruptions occurred as a result of such events as Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and the tornadoes that tear across the country’s midsection each year, including the 2011 tornadoes that knocked out power to Redstone Arsenal, AL, for nine days.
Such disruptions, disasters and other threats to Army operations—including the attempted sabotage of a substation in San Jose, CA, in 2013 and the looming concern that cyberattacks could take down the nation’s electrical grid—have grown in intensity and unpredictability, said Amanda Simpson, executive director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI), which transitioned from the Energy Initiatives Task Force in October 2014. So OEI is working on a variety of renewable energy projects with industry to help reduce the risk to installations’ energy supplies and reduce the Army’s energy footprint at the same time.
OEI, she said, is “set up like a little mini-PEO [program executive office], being that we have dozens of projects under development in various stages, but in every case we’re doing third-party financing, working with the installations to leverage renewables to bring energy security to our installations.” Before leading OEI, Simpson was special assistant to the Army acquisition executive, the Hon. Heidi Shyu, and acted as her principal adviser.
Reducing the energy footprint and bringing generation capability within the fence line increases the security of the installations, Simpson said. And working with industry on projects to provide energy just makes sense, given that the Army is already buying power from industry.
“We’re just getting our first plants online. We have a dozen projects that are either actively under construction or currently somewhere in the procurement cycle,” she said. “The first project that was under construction is at Fort Huachuca [AZ]. They go operational this month [December 2014]. It’s a solar array. It will, over the course of the year, provide 25 percent of the power to Fort Huachuca, but it’s owned and operated by Tucson Electric Power, which has been providing electricity to the fort for 73 years. It’s amazing to see almost 100 acres of solar panels.”
Another is “a solar project at Redstone [Arsenal] that will provide 18,000 megawatt hours per year,” about 5 percent of the installation’s power demand. A second project there, when complete, will provide “a little over 50 percent of the power from on-site generation,” she said. That project combines heat and power.
“Those who have been down to Redstone know that there are steam pipes running all over the place. They provide steam for heating and cooling for about half the facilities there.”
The City of Huntsville, AL, owns the generation capacity, which turns solid municipal waste into steam. That contract, Simpson said, has been in place for nearly 30 years; through it, “the Army buys a set amount of steam whether they use it or not.” The current solicitation “is either to convert that plant or build a new plant that would take the excess steam that the Army doesn’t need for heating and cooling, and run it through a turbine and generate electricity.” That is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2016 or early 2017, she said.
These OEI projects are breaking new ground for the Army. “There are different types of projects,” Simpson said. “We’re going to have to see how they work out over time.” One groundbreaking aspect is working in different jurisdictions with different rules and with agencies that have never done this kind of contracting before, being accustomed to the traditional acquisition of products. “We can move a lot faster, but we’re using procurement agencies that aren’t necessarily experienced in doing that. The Army hasn’t done things like that before.” For example, Simpson said, “We work with DLA, Defense Logistics Agency, who normally goes out and buys bulk fuel or buys electricity and things overseas. It’s a different process to do it here in the States.”
For Redstone Arsenal, AL, the spring of 2011 was a turning point. That’s when tornadoes blasted the Huntsville region and the power went out at Redstone Arsenal for nine days, despite having multiple power plants to supply electricity. That outage has resulted in the Renewable Combined Heat and Power (CHP)Project, a renewable-energy generation facility that will provide both steam and electricity exclusively to the installation. It will be constructed on five acres in the northeast portion of the installation. The project is now open to bidders.
“We believe that this is going to benefit the greater Huntsville community, as well as the Tennessee Valley as a whole,” said Erich Kurre, project director with OEI.
Through the CHP project at Redstone, the Army aims to obtain local steam and 25 megawatts of electricity to enhance energy security. There will be no cost to the Army—the contractor will finance, design, build, operate, own and maintain the CHP renewable-energy generation facility.
Currently the arsenal’s power is supplied entirely by the Tennessee Valley Authority, but that number is to drop to 48 percent in the future, as the CHP is expected to provide an estimated 48 percent of the power. Solar power will provide the remaining 4 percent.
TACTICAL POWER INITIATIVES
The Command Power and Integration (CP&I) Directorate of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), an element of the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s Research, Development and Engineering Command, creates interoperable power solutions that maximize Soldier and small unit mission effectiveness, reduce the power burden on the Soldier, and enable energy independence—power at any location with minimized resupply.
CP&I is actively contributing to addressing the Army’s future needs in support of Force 2025 and Beyond initiatives, with efforts that reflect the Army’s goals of maximizing demand reduction and enhancing expeditionary capabilities. Its Energy Informed Operations (EIO) and Tactical Power Generation projects work to provide more expeditionary, efficient and lightweight power sources for a scalable force structure.
The EIO project focuses on providing optimized and customizable power with increased efficiency and reduced logistical demands. EIO enables more effective use of available power on the battlefield by examining the introduction of tactical microgrids and developing two key concepts: the automation of power resources to more closely match supply with demand, and the communication of power situational awareness to inform and be informed by mission needs.
The emerging technology of microgrids, a localized grouping of electricity generation, distribution and loads that operate apart from a traditional centralized power grid, allows for more efficient use of energy resources compared with the legacy technique of spot generation. Deploying microgrids enables users to consolidate loads and more closely match supply with demand, thus decreasing the amount of wasted energy. Under EIO, the Army is developing open standards interface specifications that would allow new, more efficient power sources to be incorporated into the system easily without a large integration effort. Furthermore, these open standards allow companies to innovate to create more powerful, lightweight systems while maintaining compatibility with existing equipment. These standards will allow interconnectivity between different platforms—vehicle to grid, for example, or Soldier to vehicle.
In addition to developing open standards, the project envisions an EIO-compatible application that will update Soldiers on their power levels and consumption so they can better allocate their power sources. The intelligent systems will provide data to power software that can display the status of a system in an easy, intuitive manner and provide users with an artificial-intelligence-type knowledge base that will help them understand how to fix problems and will guide them through fixes on the fly. These intuitive features can increase operational efficiency by easing the training burden and manpower requirements for the future force. Finally, the EIO will provide users with planning capabilities that allow the best use and deployment of resources.
Advances in the component technologies developed under CP&I’s Tactical Power Generation program for integration with the EIO framework also play an important role in supporting the future force.
In addition to the power management technologies being developed under the EIO project, CP&I is applying research, development and systems engineering to provide the lightest, most fuel-efficient and cost-effective power sources in terms of tactical power generation, storage and the application of alternative and renewable energy technologies. These efforts will lighten the Soldier’s load and logistical burden by providing lightweight and high-energy-density, compact power sources, while also supporting expeditionary maneuvers through power options with longer runtime.
Several key components of the Tactical Power Generation efforts that support Force 2025 include fuel reformation, robust mission extenders, energy harvesting and wireless power. Fuel reforming is a leap-ahead Force 2025 technology that could allow jet propellant 8 (JP-8) to be transformed into valuable fuels that Soldiers use and generate on the battlefield. CP&I wants to reform JP-8 locally instead of shipping propane, methanol, kerosene and gasoline.
In addition to fuel reformation, CP&I is working to synthesize fuel in the field via catalytic processes that use materials organic to military operations, in combination with alternative energy sources. The goal is to assemble a hydrocarbon fuel from available waste streams that provides value to the Soldier at or near the point of use. For example, Soldiers could use carbon dioxide from engine exhaust and hydrogen from water electrolysis, via solar power, to synthesize a hydrocarbon fuel.
Robust mission extenders include conformal batteries, which are thin and flexible, to reduce the burden of batteries on the Soldier. One possible solution developed by CP&I to decrease that burden includes the Conformal Wearable Battery (CWB), a thin, lightweight battery that conforms to the body and integrates seamlessly into a Soldier’s body armor. The CWB can be worn in either the side, chest or back pouches with the ballistic protective plates, where it is virtually invisible and transparent to the Soldier. This power solution significantly reduces battery swaps as well as the variety of battery quantities the Soldier has to carry.
The Future Force 2025 goal for the CWB is to incorporate it with extremely light, next-generation, lithium-based electrochemical robust materials. This will significantly increase energy content and further reduce weight, enabling CWB to provide Soldiers in austere environments with continuous power for more than 72 hours.
Another option being explored is kinetics: harvesting energy from the Soldier’s own movements and surroundings. CP&I is researching and developing kinetic and solar energy harvesting efforts to prove out new materiel solutions for charging on-the-go, and is developing test methodologies to evaluate prototype systems during program development. Currently, CP&I and its partner organizations are looking at an electricity-generating assault pack and a mechanical insole that could be used inside a boot or shoe to help harvest Soldiers’ kinetic energy.
As in the high-tech industry, military researchers are also looking for ways to recharge devices wirelessly. Currently they are experimenting with magnetic and electric resonant coupling to achieve wireless power transfer over short to moderate distances, focusing on vehicle and tactical operations center applications.
One such effort looks at allowing the Soldier to recharge wirelessly from any military vehicle seat configured with a transmitting coil. This effort pairs inductive coupling with e-textiles, or conductive fabric, routed through a protective vest or load carriage to demonstrate a future Soldier capability that will eliminate the need for cabling to recharge electronic devices.
Research will continue to optimize the efficiency and the range of power transmission. Related efforts are experimenting with the current operational limitations of the technology as well as applying the new technologies to tabletop electronics and long-term storage requirements. The intent will be to develop longer-range wireless power transmission technologies that are both safe and suitable for military operations, including laser and microwave power transmission for extended-range recharging.
USAMMDA BRANCH GOES GREEN
The Regulatory Operations (RO) Branch of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA) at Fort Detrick, MD, is saving money and time by going paperless. RO has saved thousands of reams of paper annually by eliminating the paperwork for its U.S. Food and Drug Administration applications—which can range from 200 to 2,000 pages—and discontinuing hard copies of the files related to the organization’s 80 active products.
The office is saving time, space, money and manpower by using the Electronic Common Technical Document, an initiative that reduces RO’s carbon footprint and streamlines its entire submission process. The electronic document allows RO to reference source documents from its Electronic Document Management System (EDMS), which maintains version control so that even documents created in the earliest stages of development are incorporated into the submission process before finalization. The system also saves man-hours by eliminating the need to verify mountains of paper, page by page, against the EDMS and the sponsor’s electronic regulatory file.
RO is also saving money by scanning and cataloging all of its archives electronically, eliminating the costs related to storage space.
ANALYZING OPERATIONAL NEEDS
According to DOD estimates, operational energy (OE)—the energy required to train, move and sustain forces, weapons and equipment for military operations—accounted for 75 percent of all energy the agency used in 2012. The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is trying to get a better handle on its OE figures by creating a task force to analyze such capabilities with the same degree of rigor that it traditionally has applied to assessing combat power.
Created in March 2013, the OE Analysis Task Force (OEATF) is headed by the TRADOC Analysis Center (TAC) and also includes the U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity and the U.S. Army Center for Army Analysis. Led by TAC’s Maurice Hayes and Bonnie McIlrath, the task force plans to develop a robust analytical capability to conduct OE analyses that will inform acquisition, force design and structure, concept development and investment decisions. It is working to identify gaps in Army data, scenarios and methods, models and tools (MMT), and to propose improvements that could mitigate those gaps.
The OEATF is also working to identify relevant sustainment and operational metrics. By leveraging operational plan-based scenarios to establish conditions and reflect threats to maneuver and sustainment assets, the OEATF is developing a baseline fuel consumption analysis that accounts for air, ground and Soldier systems as well as contingency bases. These analyses identify the key OE drivers and tipping point issues associated with supportability and mission effectiveness.
A long-term OEATF effort, scheduled for completion in the 2nd quarter of FY15, will produce a theater-level baseline analysis that integrates the MMT and scenarios to provide the Army’s total fuel consumed over a campaign for an entire theater.
Also involved in the OEATF are the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, the U.S. Army Logistics Innovation Agency and the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Cost and Economics. The task force has engaged a handful of other stakeholders from DA and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), including representatives from the U.S. Army Sustainment and Maneuver Support Centers of Excellence, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
SEEKING RENEWABLES WITH A GLOBAL REACH
A long-term cooperative research and development agreement between the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) and Constellation Energy is designed to help Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), MD, boost the use of renewable energy and increase energy security while producing technology that can be deployed to the battlefield or to Army installations.
ATEC oversees Army testing centers throughout the country, including the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) at APG. Its partnership with Constellation includes several lines of effort, including the development of a geothermal power plant that could be deployed in low geophysical temperature regions. Most of the United States east of Texas is considered to have low geothermal temperature resources, along with most of the African continent, northern Europe and the interior continent of Asia. One of the goals of this initiative is to leverage energy sources and strategies to make projects in these regions economically and technically viable, said Dr. Melissa Steffen, a chemist and strategic planner for ATC.
The research effort is also looking at ways to leverage existing commercially available geothermal energy technology to deliver sustainable, lightweight and secure power. ATC will use its designation as a lead power system tester for DOD to determine the right combination of technology to make geothermal energy production at APG viable.
Most of the surface equipment used for geothermal energy has been used in commercial power production for decades. The primary goal of this effort is that it be portable and deployable operationally or to other Army installations, Steffen said. “We are also looking at ways to leverage commercial smart grid technology to provide tactical energy efficiency, security and resilience to the Army,” she added.
So far, Steffen and the ATEC team have finished the initial desktop review of existing literature on the deep geology at APG. They’re getting ready to start geophysical testing of the bedrock beneath the installation to determine the geothermal resources available there. At the same time, they are beginning discussions to move an average of 1 million kilowatt hours per year of electricity generated during DOD power system testing back onto the power grid. That’s the equivalent of powering an average of 100 homes per year and would save the Army roughly $70,000 annually.
CONTRACTING FOR EFFICIENCIES
The U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) collaborates with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Defense Logistics Agency Energy and the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC) Energy Acquisition Office to implement cost-saving measures to meet established DOD energy goals. IMCOM’s utility and energy expenditure is $1.4 billion annually.
Its goals to reduce energy usage include:
- Reduce energy intensity by 3 percent per year to reach a total reduction of 30 percent from the 2003 baseline by 2015.
- Increase use of renewable energy to at least 3 percent of total electricity consumption for FY07-09, 5 percent for FY10-12 and 7.5 percent for FY13 and beyond.
- Reduce potable water consumption by 2 percent annually, for a total reduction of 26 percent from the 2007 baseline by FY20.
- Divert 50 percent of the nonhazardous solid waste from the waste stream by FY15.
MICC Energy Acquisition supports IMCOM’s goals in various ways. MICC, a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Contracting Command, administers more than 170 utility and energy-related contracts supporting IMCOM, valued at more than $300 million. These contracts normally have long-term performance periods ranging from five to 50 years. The contract types include utility commodity, utility services, energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs), utility energy service contracts (UESCs), utility privatization and renewable energy. Generally, the utility and energy contracts fall into a handful of categories:
- Conservation: Reduce energy usage, decrease the carbon footprint and make the installation a community partner.
- Facility efficiency: Drive efficiency across the installation and enterprise.
- Resiliency, redundancy and distribution security: Build resilience and redundancy, and provide energy security.
The MICC Energy Acquisition Office helped IMCOM to develop and issue an IMCOM enterprisewide energy awareness and conservation assessments contract, which is intended to help installation energy managers conduct assessments to identify potential energy-saving projects. MICC also helped IMCOM develop and issue an enterprise resource efficiency management contract, which aims to help the installation energy managers develop and implement local energy programs.
Since 2010, the Energy Acquisition Office has conducted centralized price redetermination for all utility privatization contracts. This consolidation allowed senior specialists to negotiate the prices, which saved IMCOM over $50 million. In addition, the office has supported a wide array of Net Zero projects, ESPCs and UESCs that have reduced IMCOM’s energy and water usage costs.
MICC Energy Acquisition is also supporting renewable energy projects at Fort Bliss, TX, and at Fort Benning, Fort Gordon and Fort Stewart in Georgia. These projects will help IMCOM meet its renewable energy goals and will provide the installations with energy security and redundancy.
This article was originally published in the January – March 2015 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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