Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's More than Academic: Expeditionary Fuel Savings = a Better US Military


Guess what officers are researching these days as part of their graduate work? That's right, operational energy. Here are the two of the more recent ones I've seen:
  • "NPS Graduate Thesis: Cost Benefit Analysis of Integrated COTS energy-related technologies for Army's Force Provider Module" by LCDR Allen Rivera, SC, USN (Sep 2009). PDF here
  • "Reducing Battlefield Fuel Demand:. Mitigating a Marine Corp Critical Vulnerability" by Major William B. Fenwick, USMC (Mar 2009). PDF here
Rivera's paper documents some extensive work done in conjunction with the Soldier Systems unit at Natick, MA testing the value propositions of improved lighting and insulation tech. Guess which category offers the bigger energy bang for the buck?

Fenwick's strategy paper focuses on the disconnect between expeditionary missions and the sobering limitations of current energy logistics.

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC / David Goehring @ Flickr

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Year in Review: Top 10 DOD Energy Events of 2009

Not sure if you'll agree, but from my vantage point, this was the first year that merits a DOD Energy top ten. Folks who've been at this enterprise a long time, like Tom Morehouse and Chris DiPetto at OSD (and a small handful of others in the Services), have been doing energy grunt work without a heck of a lot of support or credit (that's my take, not theirs). Over the past decade there have been isolated wins and signs of improvement, but nothing sustained.

But this year something changed, and I have to give credit to the increasing strength of the convoy connection. It's finally shown everyone that being smart and proactive on energy issues isn't the domain of Birkenstock wearing, granola eating, tree hugging peace-nicks. The clear (and easy to understand and communicate) link between fuel convoys and 1) causalities, 2) costs, and 3) mission degradation.

I'm sure I'm leaving a lot out (that's a good thing). But without further adieu, here's the list for the year, in no particular order:
  1. Gigantic Army solar installation off the ground at Fort Irwin in California's Mojave Desert to advance conversation beyond Nellis. Score - Fort Irwin: 500+ Megawatts, Nellis AFB: 14 Megawatts
  2. Boeing's high tech, super efficient 787 Dreamliner finally flew. Basis for future tanker/transport? 
  3. Convoy lessons brought the concept of proactive energy planning fully out of its Birkenstock phase ... for everyone.
  4. Energy audits in Afghanistan commence with Marines. It's called MEAT, for Marine Energy Assessment Team, see here and here
  5. Like DARPA to advance US space tech post Sputnik, ARPA-E's mission is to turbocharge US competitiveness in energy tech (ET).
  6. 3 of the 4 Services hold major confs exclsively on energy issues. The Navy version in particular generated a huge amount of great info.
  7. The first Military Operational Research Society (MORS) workshop on power and energy brought analysts together to advance thinking on energy security and energy metrics in requirements and logistics planning process. We're expecting some out-brief artifacts soon.
  8. Energy war games all over the place, including NDU and GovEnergy and more.
  9. Candidate to fill the long-open Director for Operational Energy Plans and Programs (DOEPP) position finally nominated.
  10. Self promotion alert: my paper on operational energy metrics got published by NDU/JFQ.
I believe we've got the Mo now, and 2010 promises to build on 2009 with international conferences on military energy with the UK's MOD and others, more energy audits and tactical renewables deployments in theater, and a DOEPP approved and up and running, connecting DOD energy islands by providing leadership and strategy from the center. I'm looking forward to seeing this play out, and will cover it all here ... after a short break. Happy Holidays to all !!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Keeping an Eye on Copenhagen for DOD


Climate science was not really on my DOD Energy radar until the CNA report "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" appeared in 2007. Since then, while climate issues are far removed from the core missions of the day, they are beginning to inform future planning activities and global scenarios, as we'll see more clearly when the QDR 2010 is released to the public in a few months.

So along these lines, here's a dispatch from guest blogger and former Naval engineer, Vince Marshall, who's watching the Copenhagen climate summit closely:
Copenhagen: Global Climate Change Insurance for “Uninsured Motorists”
192 Global Climate Change representatives are in Copenhagen trying to hammer out policies on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The discussions come down to a few relatively simple issues:
  • Industrialized nations believe that developing nations will add a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases as they grow and should take steps to reduce now
  • Developing nations counter with two major complaints: the industrialized nations did not do this when they were growing and, more importantly, if this is so important to wealthy nations, how about helping out the poor neighbors by giving money and technology to reduce this burden?
Both sides make strong points and the question becomes this: how important is global climate change and who should pay for mitigation? There is a great set of articles in the Dec 5 edition of The Economist on Climate Change. The editors don’t debate whether climate change exists. They simply observe that climate change mitigation should be considered an “Insurance policy”. We take out insurance policies for our vehicles and homes against fires, floods and earthquakes without a second thought. In very simple terms, Copenhagen is about industrialized nations agreeing to take out “Uninsured Motorist” policies to cover developing nations.
If governments agree that taking out an insurance policy for the entire planet is a good idea, then how much should each country be willing to spend and who should be writing the checks? This comes down to policy and the Economist describes it here.
Global Climate Change “Insurance” can be measured in percentages of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and allocated for mitigation over many decades. We can do this by getting the highest “Bang for the buck” with energy efficiencies first then deciding what the best technologies for each region are in terms of renewables. Base electrical loads using distributed nuclear, such as those from Hyperion and Toshiba should be considered in addition to wind, solar and biomass.
Most likely we will see little outcome from Copenhagen unless the 70% majority of the developing nations (135 of 192 attending) can convince the industrialized nations to transfer large amounts of money and technology to them. This may happen but will probably be on a small scale and not really enough to make a difference.
Whether you believe in human-induced climate change or not, it makes sense to pay attention to these proceedings, as the outcomes may have broad implications for DOD and the nation.
Me, I'm not sure we understand how our planet works nearly well enough to know what to do to make it better, or that we'd even collectively agree on what better means. I believe in the power of the scientific method to iteratively arrive at the truth, but when climate change became politicized (and a billion dollar business), it left the realm of science for good IMHO.

But I understand many if not most folks feel otherwise. Vince has informed me that he'll be preparing a summary post after the conference is concluded to assess what impacts, if any, DOD is likely to feel from this. Stay tuned.

"Little Mermaid at Langelinie" Photo Credit: Erantis.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Marines Battlefield Solar Ready for Action?


What a difference 18 months makes. Back in the middle of 2007, the Joint Staff said "no way" to the concept of deploying solar or wind resources in theater. However, according to accounts like this, we're awfully close to seeing suitcase solar in Afghanistan as a first strike (albeit a modest one) against convoys. This system was fast tracked through the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and field tested at the Navy Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Bethesda, MD.

Dubbed GREENS, for Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy System, the system consists of stackable 1600-watt solar arrays combined with rechargeable batteries to yield 300 watts of continuous power.

One thing I'd like to know is has it reached Afghanistan yet, and if so, how are the Marines liking it? And if it's not there yet, when will it first arrive and in what kind of numbers?

Photo Credit: Defense.gov

Monday, December 14, 2009

Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs (DOEPP) Announced ... Finally !!!

June/July 2010 Update: Paydirt! Burke's been confirmed ... see here.
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March 2010 Update: Progress! We've gone from nomination to testimony and questioning before the Senate Armed Services Committee ... documented here.
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At times it's felt like Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" where the two hapless characters Vladimir and Estragon (and the equally hapless audience) wait and wonder whether the guy in the title is ever going to show. So much of what DOD needs done on energy has been bottled up, waiting for the DOEPP to show up.

Well, after months that seemed like years (hmmm, maybe it was years), things took a promising turn a few weeks ago when the stage crew got orders to build the set: word came that money'd been allocated to stand up the office. And then about a week ago, Sharon Burke, who's recently been running the Natural Security program at CNAS, blogged that she'd been tapped for this position by President Obama.

She's been a big part of my education over the past few years and certainly informed the recent Case for Operational Energy Metrics paper. Here's Burke's career summary from the White House press release:
Sharon E. Burke has had more than twenty years of experience as a national security and energy security professional, including service in the Federal government and non-profit organizations. Currently, she is a Vice President at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a Washington-D.C.-based national security research center. At CNAS, Ms. Burke focuses on "Natural Security," a program she originated that examines the national security implications of global natural resources supplies. In that capacity, she has published several studies on energy security and climate change. Previously, she served as a high-level advisor in the United States government, including as a Member of the Policy Planning Staff at the Department of State, a Country Director in the Department of Defense, and a speechwriter to the Secretary of Defense. She also worked in the Energy and Materials program of the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment. Ms. Burke graduated from Williams College and was a Zuckerman Fellow at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, where she focused on international energy policy and earned a Certificate of Middle Eastern Studies.
From the legislation, here's a list of her duties should she make it through the process:

The Director shall:
  1. Provide leadership and facilitate communication regarding, and conduct oversight to manage and be accountable for, operational energy plans and programs within the Department of Defense and the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps;
  2. Establish the operational energy strategy;
  3. Coordinate and oversee planning and program activities of the Department of Defense and the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marine Corps related to:
  • Implementation of the operational energy strategy;
  • The consideration of operational energy demands in defense planning, requirements, and acquisition processes; and
  • Research and development investments related to operational energy demand and supply technologies; and
And lastly, monitor and review all operational energy initiatives in the Department of Defense. I'm relieved to see there's movement. Burke's definitely got mountains to move and it's far too early to tell how much she's going to be able to get done. But one thing was certain, DOD Energy mountains don't move themselves. And one person can't do it alone. I vote we all work to make Burke a very big success.\


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Conference Update: American Society of Naval Engineers' Energy Futures Symposium

Update: ASNE has been been rescheduled and will be held 23-24 February 2009.

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At the Naval Energy Forum in October, Secretary of the Navy Mabus issued a set of ambitious new goals to boost the Navy and Marine Corps' energy efficiency, including the goal of sailing a carrier strike group on biofuel dubbed "the Great Green Fleet." Saying he was committing "the Navy and Marine Corps to meet bold, ambitious goals," Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced five energy targets.

The American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) and Navy Task Force Energy announce the ASNE Energy Futures Symposium being held December 8-9, 2009, at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, that will bring together experts and decision-makers from the U.S. Navy as well as government, industry, and academic institutions to discuss the new targets and technologies to help achieve them.

Program includes:
  • Future Energy Security Plenary Session with RADM Phil Cullom, N43
  • Energy Futures Presentation and Panel Discussion
  • Fuels Panel-Achieving 50% Alternative Fuels by 2020
  • Inter-agency Panel
The Navy is really turning up the volume on energy this year. Get there if you can. For more information, please go to the Energy Futures Symposium Homepage.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nuclear Comeback for DOD Bases?

Life would be so simple if we could conduct a feasibility study, find feasibility, then navigate through the regulatory processes with uncommon aplomb and install small new nuclear reactors at each of our bases. Each base would have a constant flow of electricity more than adequate for all of its own needs, including all mission systems, base housing, key services, etc. In fact, most would have power to spare should the host community ever find itself in an emergency situation where power to key facilities like hospitals would be a lifesaver.

Well, looks like DOD's going to take a run at this, thanks for a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2010 that says so. Here's an excerpt from an outstanding summary by William A. Macon, Jr., Army Reactor Program Manager:
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 includes a provision that requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study to assess the feasibility of developing nuclear power plants on military installations. Not later than June 1, 2010, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives a report containing the results of the study. In summary, the study shall consider: options for construction and operation; cost estimates and the potential for life cycle cost savings; potential energy security advantages; additional infrastructure costs; impact on quality of life of military personnel; regulatory, State, and local concerns; impact on operations on military installations; potential environmental liabilities; factors impacting safe co-location of nuclear power plants on military installations; and, any other factors that bear on the feasibility of developing nuclear power plants
on military installations.
Clearly, as Army Energy Security Implementation Plans (AESIPs) are developed according to the AESIS and the Secretary of Defense conducts a formal feasibility study on deploying nuclear power plants on military installations, the nuclear energy option for military power and fuel production will likely gain increased attention and may warrant consideration by senior leaders in coming years. The potential renaissance of an Army Nuclear Power Program comes at a time when the commercial nuclear power industry is actively pursuing new nuclear power plants, with 28 combined operating license applications currently under review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
It also comes at a time when there are compelling new designs for smaller nuke plants, my favorite being Hyperion's bathtub-sized nuke that requires very little care and feeding and generates all the energy most bases need. Hyperion was covered on the DOD blog some time ago, here in fact. But before I get too worked up, it's important to note Macon's own nagging concern that that the NDAA did not fully include the feasibility of the regulatory processes to implement reactor development on military installations, and as he says, this is not a trivial issue. Considerable regulatory development still lies ahead, even if all the technical studies come up roses.

So here's Macon's full paper, complete with the historical context you'll need to weigh the odds that nuclear powered bases will come to pass ... in our lifetime. Depending on your age, that is.

Air Force Academy Charts a Clean Tech Energy Future


I attended the Air Force's premier institution of higher learning in 1980's and remember the modernist buildings and breathtaking landscape (breathtaking in part, due to the scarcity of O2 at 7,500 feet above sea level). In between countless push ups and keeping my chin in, I remember wondering in the long winter hours how much they spend to they heat the place given all that glass.

Well, as this energy plan summarizes, senior leaders and facilities managers at USAFA have been thinking about how to turn some of their current energy liabilities into advantages by making the most of MILCON energy efficiency-related construction programs, as well as the decent solar, wind and hydro characteristics of the sprawling, front range Colorado Springs campus.

Here's how they say it:
The Air Force Academy is positioned to lead the charge in energy conservation, conversion away from fossil fuels, and research into new, innovative renewable energy technologies. We have 18,500 acres of natural resources including forests, water, solar, wind, geothermal, kinetics and biomass. Our team includes committed leadership, talented research scientists and engineers, dedicated energy management professionals and a base populace that understands the importance of energy independence.
This plan delves into the Air Force Academy’s goal to be a “Net-Zero” electricity installation and to reduce our carbon footprint from facility and transportation sources. Our broad objectives are challenging, yet achievable:
  • Become a “Net-Zero” electricity installation by the end of calendar year 2015
  • Meet all federal energy reduction mandates
  • Play a leading role in renewable energy research
  • Embody each cadet with an understanding that energy must be a consideration in all we do
Some great projects with tons of potential for cadet learning and culture change. All of which should impact the AF more broadly as the grads move out into leadership positions in the "Real Air Force". Here's the full plan for your review ... it's pretty ambitious ... looking forward to watching them pull this off.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

DOD Solar Facilities Build Out Beginning in Sunny Places

Its solar wall notwithstanding, Alaska's Elmendorf AFB going to have to wait for large scale solar thermal or photovoltaics. Going well beyond current LEED sustainability standards, the Navy is pushing the envelope on net zero buildings and communities in Hawaii. Follow this DOE link to read about a significant DOD housing implementation called Forest City in Honolulu.

As for the Air Force, not one to rest on its 14 MW Nevada/Nellis AFB laurels, up next is 6 more MWs in Arizona at Davis-Monthan AFB.

Meanwhile, as you should know by now, the Army is making progress on its whopper (500 MW - 1 GW) of a solar deployment in the Mojave desert at Fort Irwin in CA.

Photo Credit: DOE EERE

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More (Yes, More) Materials from the 2009 Navy Energy Conference

This is the DOD energy conference that keeps on giving. They said they would do this and now here they going doing just what they said ... I like that!

More information is now available on the new website, as well as video highlights of each day of the Naval Energy Forum. In addition to all speaker/panelist presentation materials, there are now links to download:
  • All materials used for the Information Exchange
  • The Task Force Energy working group fact sheets
  • Breakout room summaries
  • The Naval Energy Forum program
  • Naval Energy: A Strategic Approach
Click here for access to any/all of the above. Thank you ONR.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More on MORS: Learning to Ask the Right Operational Energy Questions

I must stop using the acronym MORS (for military operations research society) in post titles as it's tempting me to unleash some of the worst puns in my brief blogging career. Here's the previous one, and I'll risk it just this one last time because this conference is something beyond the DOD Energy norm.

One of the best things about this event is that it brings DOD's analytic community together to engage on energy issues face-to-face. Namely, progress it seeks to make involves improvements in risk assessment, prioritization of energy investment and work, and mainstreaming DOD energy considerations so they are understood from a capabilities perspective. 

Along the way, some pointed questions on energy will be asked, and from these, still more are sure to arise. Here's a few likely starters for you:
  • How are DOD leaders and action officers deciding what's most important to do first, and what the desired effects should be? 
  • What are the rationales for how scarce resources are being allocated today? 
  • Do the requirements people have a basic understanding of what's available with low technical risk for reducing fuel demand in the field today? 
  • While we talk about reducing energy demand and increasing renewable supplies to improve capability, who's working on showing how much is enough?
To get within a country mile of answers to any/all of the above, we need analysis done by sources trusted by senior leaders. Answers may be a ways in the future, but the sooner DOD energy "staff" can learn to ask these questions at the appropriate times, the faster investments, experimentation, adoption and better results will appear. 

It's coming up right after Thanksgiving, so here's the 
direct link to the conference 
if you'd like to learn more or attend. I promise I won't say any MORS. ;)

Another Serving of Marine Energy MEAT for You


As pledged, here's more detail from Dan Nolan following up on his initial Marines Energy Assessment Team (MEAT) post. This is the real deal: a first-hand account from the true front lines of in-theater operational energy. Here you go:
Getting There
We arrived in Kuwait City and immediately were taken to Ali Al Salem Air Base north of the city. This way station on the road to Iraq and Afghanistan has seen thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and civilians pass through. I have been through here three times and the pros there do a great job of moving a mass of humanity in and out of war zones with a minimum of pain. That being said, "hurry up and wait" in 120 degrees is no fun. Spray foam anyone? Eventually we boarded the C-17 with a couple of multi-ton MRAPs for the four hour trip to Kandahar. It is apparent that the closer you get to the front, the less bureaucracy you have to endure. Kandahar was our last stop before entering the domain of the US Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan.
Camp Leatherneck  
Headquartered at Camp Leatherneck, MEB-A is responsible for all USMC operations in the Helmand Province, the wild west of Afghanistan. According to ISAF (International Security Assistance Force, the NATO command in Afghanistan), bases are either temporary or enduring, and only Bagram and Kandahar are designated as enduring. All other bases, therefore, are temporary. This distinction becomes important when discussing military construction. Temporary bases are not eligible for those funds, therefore all construction projects must be $750K or less (without a DoD waiver). The potential economies of scale via by large investment are unfortunately limited by this legal designation. Result: $20 million worth of projects at one installation are being done $750K at a time.
Marines Return and the Maturity Path
Although the US has been in Afghanistan for years, the reintroduction of the Marines is a recent event with all the attendant growing pains, and in many cases they had to fight their way back in. Marine bases are classified by maturity and command responsibility. Camps are large, more mature sites, pushing logistics down to the next level, Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) who in turn provide support to the Combat Outposts (COPs) and from there to the Patrol Bases (PBs). The permanence (actually it's more like the opposite of permanence) of these bases ranges from fleeting to temporary to enduring. Energy demand seems to follow the bureaucratic path as well ... in other words, demand declines (some might say dwindles) as you move down the hierarchy. Additionally, as maturity grows, so does efficiency. When they first deploy, Marines are extremely effective, but not necessarily efficient. Energy demand is low and singular and spot generation is the rule. As a base matures, it brings in the climate control necessary to protect electronics and provide a better environment for troops. However, little is done to increase the efficiency of the structures until the next level of maturity is reached: contract support.
Contract Support and Spot Power
Contract support for temporary bases should contain provisions for rewarding the contractor for efficiency, otherwise there is no incentive. Commanders must insist on this. As non-enduring bases shift from fleeting to temporary, a number of energy conservation and efficiency measures can be taken. Simply moving from spot generation to “ganging” generators increases the efficiency of power production as a prelude to prime power. Spot generation is one generator to one load. Usually the generator rarely matches the load so it runs at lower efficiency and burns additional more fuel. When you group or "gang" generators so that load more closely matches generation, you have greater fuel efficiency and less wear and tear on the generator. In one installation we visited, 19 megawatts of capacity was available to support five megawatts of demand. This is not a matter of malfeasance, it is simply the fact of spot power. Individual generators are required as facilities are established. Over time, efficiencies can be gained through “ganging”, but this requires a command decision. The same is true in the application of other measures such as tent foaming, shifting from tents to hard structures and moving to contract support. In tactical situations, we call it “position improvements”.
Initial Recommendations
The reduction in the fully burdened cost of fuel (FBCF) in dollars and blood require that we give commanders the tools and the knowledge to improve their positions as soon as the situation warrants. There is a cost-cross over point where delaying the decision to move from fleeting to temporary status can be measured and assessed. Determining that point is as much art as science; however, delaying the decision without good tactical rational puts our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines at unnecessary risk. The more support functions the uniformed forces can turn over to contractors, the more combat power can be put where needed. The caveat is that accountability must be ruthless. Contracts must have explicit requirements for efficiency and conservation of energy with appropriate incentives. If the contractors cannot demonstrate cost savings there must be severe penalties. There is an old maxim, “The unit does well what the boss checks.” We must give the boss the tools to check.
There's that call for tools again (see previous post). Stay tuned ... other Services like these energy audits and are signing up. You may get to read another one in the not-too-distant future.

Photo: Titin Valley in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan
Photo Credit: US Army on Flickr

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Army Takes a Very Close Look at Convoy Casualties


All I can say is if you care about our troops, their ability to accomplish the missions they're given, and have been paying any attention to DOD energy issues, then this report is well worth your attention. Released in September 2009, it's called "Sustain the Mission Project: Casualty Factors for Fuel and Water Resupply Convoys Final Technical Report" and can be downloaded in PDF here.

Before you dive in deep, here are a couple of preview snippets. From the Conclusions section:
Since 2004, resupply casualties have been decreasing in Iraq and increasing in Afghanistan. Energy and water technologies are emerging that can substantively reduce the need for resupply convoys in theater; and therefore potentially reduce casualties without sacrificing operational effectiveness .... Resupplying troops in theater with fuel and water is a mission in which personnel vulnerability can be reduced through increased use of energy efficiency, renewable energy and on-site water production in theaters of operations.
and this on unforeseen consequences from Recommendations on MRAP vehicles:
The case of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle—the MRAP is a heavier, more formidable system, but fuel inefficient requiring more fuel convoys — is a good example of the issue of tradeoff between vulnerability and fuel efficiency. High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), which are particularly susceptible to improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, have been replaced by MRAPs in many cases. In the short term this is an excellent force protection solution to the IED problem; however, the MRAP consumes significantly more fuel than the traditional (and up-armored) HMMWV and therefore requires more fuel resupply convoys. The complexity and scope of these types of issues and tradeoffs is beyond the scope of the methodology and capability presented in this report. These hardware decisions require the application of large scale combat and combat support models used by the Army’s analytical agencies such as the Center for Army Analysis.
Take away: DOD requirements folks haven't had analytical tools for energy factors. Commanders' calls for better protection for troops in convoys simultaneously put more troops in harm's way as more convoys must travel IED-strewn roads to transport the additional fuel MRAPs' need vs. the trucks they replace. This report (and this blog's constant emphasis on metrics for operational energy) is a call to action for more and better energy-related analytical tools and models to improve mission effectiveness ... and save more of our brave, young folks' lives.

Photo Credit:  www.almc.army.mil

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Conference Alert: Marines Ass Kicking on Energy Continues


The Jarheads are clearly on a roll re: examining and improving their operational energy posture. See recent DEB posts to this effect here and here.

Now there's more, and you heard it here first (or maybe second). You know the 4W+H format by now:
  • What: Marine Corps Expeditionary Power and Energy Symposium
  • When: January 25th-27th, 2010
  • Where: Marriott New Orleans in New Orleans
  • Who: Sponsored by NDIA, will feature a keynote address by a DOD energy rock star -- Marine Corps Commandant, General James T. Conway
  • How: Go here for more info and to register
OK, here's a little more What: Marine Corps leaders and industry experts will explore challenges and opportunities to increase power and energy efficiency and self sufficiency in expeditionary warfare. This is a forum for the Marine Corps and private industry to discuss ideas and solutions to lessen the Corps’ power and energy dependencies and vulnerabilities as these issues pose an increasing threat to getting the mission done.

Photo of New Orleans at night from the Marriott: Credit to T. Hall on Flickr

Monday, November 16, 2009

Deloitte Weighs in on Current DOD Energy Situation


Ollie F, and now Karen A have made it plain: this Deloitte energy security report needs its 15 minutes of DOD Energy Blog fame and it needs it now.

I don't want to steal its thunder, but to help you better prioritize your time, here are some of its main focal points:
  • Rising Energy Use in Warfare
  • Global Oil Supply & Demand
  • DOD Energy Consumption
  • Potential Threats to Global Oil Infra
  • Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF) "in Blood and Money"
  • Opportunities for Change: Fuel Optimization, Mobility Platform Fuel Optimization, Alternative Fuels & Power Generation
It's all good, and the FBCF part is particularly compelling. Recommend you give it a look.

Afghanistan Convoy Photo Credit: Deloitte

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MORS Law: "Power and Energy" Workshop Announcement

Heads-up! The Military Operations Research Society (MORS) is running an outstanding energy-issues focused workshop the purpose of which is:
To consider how best to identify and capture the risk from US operational energy demand in the legacy and future force, and allow the analysis community to help determine the best approaches to inform force planning, requirements development and potentially acquisition trade-space decision-making to implement new strategic guidance and identify current analysis gaps.
This may help us figure out how to better model energy risk in DOD planning and how to make risk-informed decisions on energy within the design process for our future forces. Speakers are not yet ID'd, but I understand RADM Bill Burke, the Navy's lead for the QDR, will be in the house.

Logistics:
Get there if you can!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Marines MEAT their Afghanistan Energy Challenges Head On

Itinerant blogger and Sabot 6 founder Dan Nolan is back Afghanistan where he was on assignment for the Marines as an expert combat energy advisor. Here's his first write-up from this experience (caution -- I hope you don't find his style too dry):
In early September 2009 I arrived in Kandahar Afghanistan as part of the Marine Energy Assessment Team (MEAT). The team was led by a USMC fighter pilot/senior military advisor to the director of DARPA and composed of a combat wounded Warrant Officer fuels expert; a hard as woodpecker lips, Master Gunnery Sergeant utilities specialist, a Captain who gave the Commandant some advice in public; and a nerdy looking, renewable energy scientist with more steel in his spine than a Transformer.
The six of us arrived by C-17 after talking our way out of Kuwait (our papers were NOT in order) to determine ground truth regarding the USMC forward operating bases' (FOB's) use of energy. The Commandant had heard that the fully burdened cost of fuel (FBCF) in theater was $400 per gallon and he wanted to know ground truth (e.g., if an F-16 refuels an F-16, it might be $400, otherwise closer to $15).
We visited large, mature, contractor-supported bases and tiny patrol bases where a Lieutenant and his platoon stood alone and unafraid against the darkness. From the nearly palatial “Board Walk” in Kandahar to the southernmost patrol base outside the aptly named FOB Payne, the magnificent men and women of the Corps execute their arduous mission with quiet professionalism that causes this old soldier’s heart to swell with pride.
The basic findings were that, at the large bases, energy was used effectively, but not efficiency and at the most forward location, bottled water was the largest component of the logistics burden. The important point is that the Corps is finding ways to measure consumption and what can be measured can be managed. They are serious about unleashing themselves from the tether of fuel and operational commanders are making this part of their mission. The Commandant has established his energy team, issued the marching orders and begun moving aggressively. I hope the other Services are watching and learning. The rest of the Department of the Navy is also stepping up. The SecNavy and CNO both spoke at the recent energy conference, laying out an aggressive, command-driven vision for the Navy in conservation, efficiency and renewable energy. Go Navy!
To which I add Go Army! and Go Air Force! This is great stuff the Marines are doing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recent Notes for DOD from the Climate Change Battle Ground (Updated)

To all that follows add this, just in from the IEA via the WSJ: "World Need for Oil Expected to Ease"

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Simplicity is a wonderful thing, sometimes the most wonderful thing. When you have it, you understand more quickly, for instance, how to operate a new gadget, or what course of action is the right one in a moral/ethical/legal debate. When all you have is complexity, your next move, should you make one at all, is a difficult one. Such is the case with information coming from many different directions re: US energy strategy and energy security vis a vis the climate change question.

With the DOD increasingly signalling its interest in limiting CO2 emissions, to include obligations to comply with executive orders, I believe it's time to look anew at the still unsettled science both on the human contribution to climate changes we see around us as well as on humans' potential ability to modify the climate now in way that will be helpful (what might be helpful, too, is undecided).

In the meantime, winners are often determined by who employs the best rhetoric. Here are a handful of pieces I've read in the past week or two that do a decent job of poking on this issue, from several perspectives.

The first article comes from the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE's) 4th quarter 2009 publication. Called "We Can Live With a Fossil Fuel Future: Oil, Gas, Coal & Shale Oil", author Gerald Westbrook attempts to tackle everything from climate change politics to the economic, scientific and engineering forces driving renewables adoption and ultimately makes a case to support his title. As a renewable energy enthusiast, I can't say I feel good about what he's saying. But I do want to understand his case, even though I disagree with parts of it.

Then there's the Wall Street Journal, which gives Cambridge Energy Research Associates' (CERA's) Daniel Yergin a platform to announce "America's Natural Gas Revolution." Seems like there may be a heck of a lot more nat gas available to us in the not-too-distant future from very local sources. Could give solar technology development some more time to advance. Nat gas, lower by car in CO2 emissions than coal, could generate electricity to power electric cars enabled by the advances in battery technology described by Westbrook, not to mention Westbrook's stated objective of reducing oil demand, even while he argues for continued use of coal.

Add to this, and to my surprise, a BBC report that says indicators of human induced climate change are showing a possible cooling trend over the next 10 to 20 years with the warmest year on record being (play drum roll here) ... 1998. It says this may or may not indicate something is amiss with current thinking on (and models of) human induced climate change. And it seems to do so in an objective way, bringing in opinions from all sides of the debate.

But as one man's pleasure is another man's pain, the concluding Examiner article focuses on the respected journal Nature's angry response to the BBC article. You may enjoy the way it goes about doing this. Note to those who carry a flag for any particular cause: if you want to enhance your persuasiveness by seeming rational and balanced, try not to use words that make you sound pissed off (even if you're pissed off).

DOD policy makers and energy planners will do well to follow these discussions closely and not be too quick to jump into one camp or another.

Monday, November 2, 2009

DOD Beginning to See the Light


Beginning, that is, if you don't count the 14 MW installation at Nellis AFB in Nevada which has now been in place a couple of years. I'm sure there are more, but here are two press releases forwarded to me last week, announcing another ambitious solar deployment by the Air Force and a 1 GW (potential) whopper by the Army. Like the Nellis project before them, the financing is every bit as innovative as the technology. First, here's the Air Force one:
TUCSON, Ariz.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Housing developer Actus Lend Lease, SolarCity®, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and financing parties National Bank of Arizona and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) are working to create one of the nation’s largest distributed, community-wide solar power systems at Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Upon completion, the community is expected to be the largest solar-powered community in the continental U.S. The solar systems are expected to produce more than 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually—sufficient to provide an estimated 75 percent of the residents’ energy use next year—and could eventually offset 100 percent of Soaring Heights Communities’ electricity use.
Full Air Force Press Release here. And now for the Army:
LOS ANGELES, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. military is tackling a new mission in the field of alternative energy, moving to power up a 500-megawatt solar facility at Fort Irwin's sprawling desert complex in California.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tapped ACCIONA Solar Power, a unit of Spain's Acciona SA (ANA.MC), and Clark Energy Group to develop the project, which launched its first phase on Thursday. The project, located at the Army's largest training range in California's Mojave Desert, could grow as large as 1 gigawatt in the future.
Full Army Press Release here. Not one to rest on its geothermal laurels (see: China Lake), I'm sure the Navy has a solar response up its sleeves. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Mike Baird at Flickr

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Latest GAO Report Hits DOD Hard on Grid Reliance


Sometimes it seems like there's just too much on the DOD's plate:
  • having to simultaneously kill people and build trust with communities
  • with too many risks to track and mitigate, and 
  • too many jobs to be done by too few folks ...
  • in an increasingly constrained budgetary environment
  • and I'm not even going to mention EMP (woops)
Now comes GAO telling Congress and DOD that the Department is asleep at the wheel when it comes to plans and preparation for extended power outages in CONUS and overseas. Here's a couple of excerpts from the summary:
DOD’s most critical assets are vulnerable to disruptions in electrical power supplies, but DOD lacks sufficient information to determine the full extent of the risks and vulnerabilities these assets face. All 34 of these most critical assets require electricity continuously to support their military missions, and 31 of them rely on commercial power grids—which the Defense Science Board Task Force on DOD Energy Strategy has characterized as increasingly fragile and vulnerable—as their primary source of electricity.
and
The 10 Defense Critical Infrastructure Program vulnerability assessments we reviewed did not explicitly consider assets’ vulnerabilities to longer-term (i.e., of up to several weeks’ duration) electrical power disruptions on a mission-specific basis, as DOD has not developed explicit Defense Critical Infrastructure Program benchmarks for assessing electrical power vulnerabilities associated with longer-term electrical power disruptions.
Sounds to me like this necessary work could piggyback nicely with efforts to prepare for and take advantage of new and emerging Smart Grid and microgrid capabilities. Somebody on that?  Hope so.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fuel Efficient Future Fighters


As is increasingly the case, thanks to Ollie keeping his finger on the quickening pulse of energy innovation in DOD. Sometimes having separate services field overlapping or redundant capabilities is an organizational efficiency buzz kill. Other times, sibling rivalry drives them further/faster than they might otherwise go.

Here are recent announcements from the Navy on its ambitious F/A-18 Green Hornet biofuel fighter program and the Air Force looking at bringing ADVENT efficient jet engine technology to the F-35. Maybe they Army has something up its sleeve with helo's?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wall Street Journal Status Update on New Energy Technologies


Ten, twenty, thirty years ago you could hope farsighted folks would start investing substantial funds to more rapidly advance the economic viability of renewables, particularly solar. But it wasn't going to happen. You could have hoped (if you were that kind of person) that government would invest big bucks to find energy research. But you would have been disappointed.

Well, these are the new days, and while some fresh minds are working on building the next new iPhone app, thousands more at MIT and elsewhere have the pedal to the metal on nanotech solar and modified genetic biofuels and a million other things that could change the world.

This Wall Street Journal article gives you a snappy late 2009 update on five of them complete with nice illustrations, tells you where they stand today, describes the capabilities they might bring tomorrow, and states plainly that all of them have serious challenges they've yet to overcome. My favorite line from the article balances the good with the hard: "Scientists are attacking the problem from a host of angles—all of which are still problematic."

Here are the five, all of which could make a big difference in DOD, not to mention the rest of the nation:
  • Space based solar
  • Advanced car batteries
  • Utility storage
  • Carbon capture and storage
  • Next generation biofuels
There is no question some or all of these technologies will be part of our future energy portfolio. The only questions are when, how much, and what else?

Illustration Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

UAV Anxiety: Losing Touch with Distant Drones

Thanks to Peter Reed and Stephan Tremble for this. You'll recall how I drone on about the fuel demand implications of a global sky filled with DOD UAVs 24/7/365. Boring, right? Well, bet you hadn't thought of this energy-related risk (below) ... I certainly didn't !!!
During "lost link" episodes, when communication with the air crew is broken, the plane circles on a preset course and waits for direction. "We have to find it. It's like hide-and-seek," Dowd said. The week Gersten took command at Creech, a power surge hit the base and he lost contact with several Predators and Reapers over Afghanistan and Iraq. His crews told him this was nothing to worry about, and in fifteen minutes all the planes were back online. Two weeks later, another power surge hit Creech and he lost contact with more Predators and Reapers. Within a half hour, all were found. But systems so technology-dependent will be vulnerable to exploitation, whether through hacking or physical interruption of data -- shooting down a satellite, perhaps, along its round-the-world journey. And in increasingly wired war zones, everyone will be fighting for bandwidth.
Read the full article in Esquire ... quite interesting indeed.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Navy Shows Smart Grid Leadership


I recently had a chance to speak with Rear Admiral Phil Cullom, who I met at CNA's "Powering America's Defense" report release gathering earlier in the year.

RADM Phil Cullom runs N43, Fleet Readiness and Task Force Energy, works with (and brought into the discussion) RADM Mark Handley whose role is now Commander of 1NCD (1st Naval Construction Division).

Handley, who led the Navy Energy program way back in '96, reminded me that since 1985 up until just recently, the Navy has reduced energy demand at facilities over 30% by hitting the low hanging fruit. Having hit a bit of a wall, with a view to only much higher hanging fruit, Hadley said he views the Smart Grid has the way to take facilities energy demand reduction to the next level, primarily via usage info the Smart Grid will provide.

How'd the Navy go so far so fast in its Smart Grid thinking? Seems like they got a head start when in the year 2000 a San Diego energy price spike drove the local base to aggressively meter over the Web as a solution. Immediately visible where the sources of the highest demands and the facilities manages quickly adapted and dealt with "problem users." Problem solved and by the way, these actions had considerable ROI, the Admirals noted.

So dear reader with facilities responsibilities, I must ask, what are you waiting for?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, October 19, 2009

DOD Energy Blogger Letter to Editor at "The Hill" Re: DOD Cost of Fuel in Afghanistan

Long-time readers will note I've spent a fair amount of time on this blog saying the DOD doesn't properly value fuel in its systems requirements definition, force planning, acquisition processes, war gaming, etc. So it was more than a little ironic that I found myself yesterday writing to the influential DC newspaper "The Hill" arguing that they're telling lawmakers that the prices they quoted for fuel delivered to troops in Afghanistan is far too high.

But they printed an article that grossly distorted the facts, and since I know a thing or two about this topic, and since what we decide to do in Afghanistan is of paramount national interest, thought I had to chip in. No guarantee they'll respond; they haven't yet as far as I can tell. But just for the record, here's what I wrote the editors last night (18 OCT 2009):
Dear Sirs,
I politely request you consider publishing a clarification regarding last week's article, "$400 per gallon gas to drive debate over cost of war in Afghanistan." As someone who has been studying the DoD's use of energy at US bases as well as in war zones, the article's title, as well as its very first sentence, state and then reinforce a potentially damaging factual inaccuracy that could impact public policy decisions being made right now.
The $400 per gallon figure was recently cited by Marine Corps Commandant Conway when he said thecosts of transported fuel in Afghanistan can be "up to $400" per gallon. In most cases, the costs are well below that maximum. The DoD's own understanding of these costs is not nearly as conclusive as theauthor suggests. Here's how the Defense Science Board task force on energy put it on page 30 of their definitive 2008 report: "... delivered costs for fuel to range from a low of $4 per gallon for ships on the open ocean to $42 per gallon for in-flight refueling to several hundred dollars per gallon for combat forces and FOBs deep within a battlespace." In Afghanistan as in other areas remote from the United States, fuel costs are relatively low at large central bases. As you get closer to the tactical edge of operations, however, costs escalate substantially as military forces transport fuel and protect fuel in transit.
A second source of potential confusion in the article relates to a failure to properly define the DoD's still-new metric: the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF). Suffice it to say that the higher figures cited by General Conway and Army energy security program director Kevin Geiss include a long list of direct and indirect costs that go far beyond what readers will likely infer from the article (for more info on factors considered in FBCF analysis, see here).
However, while at its most precise, the FBCF can be understood as a range of possible costs, we may soon have better estimates for these numbers in Afghanistan. General Conway authorized an energy cost investigation team that recently returned from their mission in Afghanistan. As I understand it, the raw data they captured is being analyzed and will made available when complete.
For now, and especially during a period of intense debate over our future strategy in that country, I ask you to communicate to your very influential readers that the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel in Afghanistan is not $400 per gallon, not nearly. In my opinion, the inaccurate and alarmist article published last Thursday will do far more harm than good.
I thank you very much for your attention.
Respectfully,
Andy Bochman

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Army Corps of Engineers’ Sustainability Conference Report

Sabot 6's Dan Nolan's out there and at it again. Looks like he was within 10 miles of my home territory in Boston and didn't even let me know ... he's definitely going to get it.  But for now, you're going to get it, straight from him and his recent experiences at an Army sustainability conference. Enjoy!
DN: I had the opportunity to deliver the keynote address at the US Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division (NAD) Sustainability Conference hosted by the New England District in scenic Concord, MA on 7 Oct 09. Traveling through the back roads under the canopy of fall splendor, I could see why this was land for which one would fight.The conference was attended by about 80 military engineers and managers, including members of the NAD HQ, folks from all six Districts (even Europe!), as well as the USACE’s Engineer Research and Development Center (Construction Engineering Research Laboratory) and U.S. Navy’s Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC). The purpose of the conference was to inform and educate military engineers about federal and DoD policy mandates (e.g., EPAct 2005, EISA 2007, the DoD Energy Security Strategic Plan, E.O. 13423 and the new Executive Order), meeting LEED (especially changes with LEED 3.0), the technologies on the market that will enable the USACE to achieve the various requirements, and case studies and best practices using those technologies. The interest and excitement was palpable in every session, and the discussion was spirited as engineers and managers compared notes and case studies between districts and Services on what the impact of the policies has been and will continue to be (especially the new Executive Order). Most importantly, the discussion demonstrated how to continue positioning the Corps to meet the new challenges of sustainable design, energy efficiency and renewable technologies. Seeing the momentum from the grass roots level of the USACE, echoing the themes presented by the CG, LTG Van Antwerp the day before at the AUSA Convention was very heartening. The guys and gals who have to make it happen are ready and the leadership is committed. I look for great things to follow from the Corps!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

UAV Revolution update

Fresh from a great lecture last night on exponential rates of improvement in information systems by futurist Ray Kurzweil, and only 2 days remove from a post on the revolution in the performance and use of UAVs, I get a note in my inbox this morning. It's a press release announcing a new small UAV endurance record leveraging a breakthrough in fuel cell technology. Navy's ONR is a partner. Draw your own conclusions about where this is leading.

Without further adieu, here you go:

SMALL UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE COMPLETES RECORD 23-HOUR FLIGHT
USING PROTONEX FUEL CELL SYSTEM

DATELINE: SOUTHBOROUGH, MA; Protonex Technology Corporation (LSE: AIM: PTX and PTXU), a leading provider of advanced fuel cell power systems, today announced that the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), through a program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), has documented a flight endurance record on their small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Ion Tiger, utilizing a highly advanced fuel cell system from Protonex. The Ion Tiger UAV flew for over 23 hours, setting an unofficial endurance record for fuel cell powered flight, driven by the latest generation of Protonex' UAV power system.

The 23+ hour duration of the Ion Tiger flight far surpasses the longest previous small UAV flight achieved using any technology. By incorporating the Protonex power system, the Ion Tiger was able to demonstrate seven times the endurance capability of advanced batteries. The Protonex UAV system that was used in the Ion Tiger demonstration is a high performance, ultralight proton exchange membrane [PEM] fuel cell system, coupling stack technology that can achieve 1,000 watts per kilogram with advanced balance of plant components.

With the successful completion of this major milestone, Protonex is planning to continue transitioning this advanced power source into small UAV products with specific payloads and mission requirements for both military and commercial applications. The endurance capabilities proven in this program were previously achievable only with larger scale, more costly UAVs. Protonex is now confident that new critical missions can be achieved by smaller, more cost-effective UAV platforms that incorporate its advanced power systems.

"This impressive 23-hour record flight milestone represents yet another successful collaboration with the NRL and is a culmination of all of our combined efforts to date," stated Dr. Paul Osenar, Chief Technology Officer, Protonex. "We share the ONR's vision towards bringing quiet electric propulsion and long endurance to today's small UAVs and to extend the capability to the warfighter."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't Forget the DSB and the Brittle Grid Problem Facing DOD Installations

Eighteen months have now passed since the public release of the DOD energy security bible, otherwise known as the Defense Science Board task force report on energy: "More Tooth, Less Tail"

I submit this post now, following recent energy conferences by the Army and Marines and with a Navy conference underway, to remind readers of how far we have to go with facilities vis a vis the brittle grid problem called out by the task force. Meeting energy efficiency and sustainability mandates is one thing; providing true mission assurance by reducing or eliminating bases' near total reliance on their local electric utilities is quite another. From page 54 on "Managing Risks to Installations":
For various reasons, the grid has far less margin today than in earlier years between capacity and demand. The level of spare parts kept in inventory has declined, and spare parts are often co-located with their operational counterparts putting both at risk from a single act. In some cases, industrial capacity to produce critical spares is extremely limited, available only from overseas sources and very slow and difficult to transport due to physical size.

In many cases, installations have not distinguished between critical and non-critical loads when configuring backup power systems, leaving critical missions competing with non-essential loads for power. The Task Force finds that separating critical from noncritical loads is an important first step toward improving the resilience of critical missions using existing backup sources in the event of commercial power outage. The confluence of these trends, namely increased critical load demand, decreased resilience of commercial power, inadequacy of backup generators, and lack of transformer spares in sufficient numbers to enable quick repair, create an unacceptably high risk to our national security from a long-term interruption of commercial power.
Energy efficiency is an essential demand reduction component and has to continue to be pursued relentlessly. But bringing true microgrid islanding capabilities and mass storage to each DOD facility ... that's the true challenge of the next few years. Let's get on it.

Next post will be on a Marine Corps microgrid pilot at Twentynine Palms.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Insulation Tech makes a Better Winter Jacket...May One Day Reduce DOD Fuel Consumption

Got to speak with a very interesting new company called Klymit recently, and at first I wasn't sure their technology, which has potential to help keep soldiers warmer and lighter, was applicable to DOD from an energy point of view. When you visit Klymit's site you'll be impressed. Their disruptive approach to insulation: user adjustable, noble gas-enabled insulation, made me think this was something Natick Soldier Systems might be interested in to possibly lighten the ridiculously heavy loads carried by today's troops. Along those lines, I was informed Klymit is working with industry consultant Level 4 Group to approach Natick and DOD on a few fronts.

One of those fronts, and where the big potential win for DOD on the energy front is, is in applying Klymit's insulation technology to tents. Here are a few of the advantages Klymit tents might have over the current state of the art, energy saving, spray foam tents:
  • Klymit fabric rolls up for transport or storage - soldier deployable and "Marine proof" - no contractors
  • High R values relative to weight/space constraints compared to foam and other conventional insulation
  • Fully re-useable - spray foam tents are a one time deal with foam-waste disposal challenges post use
  • Klymit insulation in harsh applications has a potential life span of up to several years

This is early stage stuff but Klymit is currently in talks with DOD tent and structure orgs and they're worth keeping an eye on. By they way, there's more Klymit coverage at my alma mater site: Discovery Tech: Sustainable.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Economist and Tom Barnett on UAV Revolution


Nice piece in the Economist on past, present and likely future of UAVs or "drones". Pace of innovation and energy-related technological advance reminds me of the 1980's PC era:
Small drones ... with electric motors are quiet enough for low-altitude spying. But batteries and fuel cells have only recently become light enough to open up a large market. A fuel cell developed by AMI Adaptive Materials, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, exemplifies the progress made. Three years ago AMI sold a 25-watt fuel cell weighing two kilograms. Today its fuel cell is 25% lighter and provides eight times as much power. This won AMI a $500,000 prize from the Department of Defence. Its fuel cells, costing about $12,000 each, now propel small drones.
And here are Barnett's take-aways:
  • No personnel lost and drones deliver great results at about 1/20th the cost of jets
  • Benefit is the loitering capacity ("persistent stare" means yo can find needles in haystacks because you can watch them being built) yielding real-time operational intell
  • In 2003, the big UAVs logged 35k hours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year the number was 800,000 hours. That total doesn't even include all the new, super-small robotic ones that guys just launch by throwing them in the air; the U.S. military has something like 5,000 such units. That's a revolution, my friends
And his prediction: "the big UAVs are getting up in the tens of millions of dollars per unit, but the smaller ones stay in the tens of thousands of dollars. Guess which ones will win out over time?"
For me, UAVs and their land-based and under-sea autonomous and semi-autonomous cousins have got to be one of the most exciting product families to work on in a long time. And the implications of their arrival and eventual ubiquity are, for DOD energy demand planners, presently unfathomable. Eyes wide open on this space.

Photo: Wikimedia

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Marines Lead DOD on Energy


Another great dispatch just in from roving DEB reporter Dan Nolan of Sabot 6:
On 1 Oct 2009 I meet the new head of the United States Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, General James Conway, who is also the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps. A few weeks prior I wrote about the USMC Energy Summit where General Conway announced that he would form an energy office and “before the end of the month, deploy a team to Afghanistan” to assess energy use at forward operating bases.
My thought at the time was, “there is no way they can assemble, prepare and deploy a team in that amount of time”. Nevertheless, I landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan on 3 September 2009 as part of the 6-six-man Marine Energy Assessment Team. Amazing what a little leadership can do. The highlight of the visits to the various camps, combat outpost and patrol bases (other than the odd rocket attack) was getting to meet the magnificent men and women of today’s Corps. America has nothing to fear with these folks on the front line.
Each service now has an energy office, but only the Marine Corps office is led by a uniformed officer. The leadership positions at DOD, the Army and Air Force are unfilled at this time. DOD related energy conferences continue. The same briefings detailing the same challenges are given over and over again. We can all look to the USMC for true leadership in DOD in relieving our unquenchable thirst for oil.
There'll be more detail coming from Dan on this. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Barnett on Yergin on China/US Energy Competition


Actually, Tom Barnett doesn't say much here besides endorsing Daniel Yergin's take. But his finding and highlighting these nuggets of energy wisdom is of great value: see here. Take away is that there's little to fear in the contention for fossil fuels (namely oil) from the world's great and rising powers as our economies are so interdependent.

What concerns me (and others) more is China's tremendous push on renewable technologies. It's not a bad thing at all, globally speaking. But if it leaves the US in the dust, unable to capitalize on renewables innovation and the huge global market for clean energy products, that would signal a major lost opportunity for us. Let's make sure we win the competitions that matter most, and not fret over those that don't.

Photo: NY Times

Navy Energy Conference Update - Speakers


I previously announced this conference here but wanted to provide attendees and potential attendees a link to the recently published speakers list and detailed agenda. Commencing October 14th, it includes the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Gary Roughhead (bio here) as well as many other senior leaders.

Beginning with tracks on energy security and energy efficiency is a good sign, but it'll have its work cut out for it to be as strong and focused an event as was the Marines' one-day energy conference back on August 13th.

It's hard to discern how much time will be alloted for operational energy issues vs. facilities, and it also appears that the second day is entirely devoted to environmental issues. There's an attempt at Web 2.0 community building via a forum set up for the Forum.  However, so far, many have joined but few have spoken. Navy energy efforts are looking better and better lately, but still want to see them turn up the volume even more.

Photo: Navy Times

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

German Army to New German Wind Turbines: "Halt!"

A rock to the left and a hard place to the right: that's where the Germany finds itself on this issue. Like the rest of Europe, Germany needs to do everything it can to reduce its energy dependency on Russia, see here, here, here and here.

To that end, Germany has deployed more wind power than any other country on Earth and has plans to bring much more on line shortly.

But there's a catch of course. A debate is on over how much or how little fields full of large spinning composite blades impair radar's ability to do its job. Numerous links for this, here's one for you.

I'm not the Bundeswehr (thank goodness), but I know which way I'd go on this one. Post Cold War, I'd tune my radar policy and technology to adapt to a turbine filled world. GasProm's (Putin's) energy blackmail is a much more proximate threat to Germany's well being than a terrorist tank battalion stealthily slaloming through the windmills.

Photo of F-16 Radar: DefenseIndustryDaily.com

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Future Aircraft Technology: Reviewed, Considered, Critiqued


Thanks to Ollie for pointing this one out. Personally, I'm less concerned about the aviation industry's ability to comply with emissions targets, and more interested in how evolving policy and technology will impact how the Air Force does its job. We've talked about blended wing body and other future concepts here before. This recent article in MIT's Technology Review reminds us of the incremental nature (and limitations) of many of the technologies now on the table.
With these limitations in mind, by 2020, new technologies could make aircraft about 20 percent to 35 percent more efficient, on average, than planes today. Fuselage coatings and adjustable wings, among other things, could reduce drag. Engines that run hotter and at higher pressures would use less fuel, as would engines that use gears to optimize the speeds of different parts of a turbine, and open-rotor designs that resemble and have some of the efficiency advantages of turboprops.
And they're not even beginning to address potentially massive new fuel burdens from ubiquitous and perpetual UAV deployments. We better hope there's a breakthrough in either Star Trek transporter technology or Harry Potter flue powder, because evolving-but-traditional jet planes simply aren't keeping up with the future.

Image: Gizmodo

Thursday, October 1, 2009

As Pledged: Two Smart Grid Security Posts from GridWeek

Folks working energy strategy and energy security at OSD and in the Services are getting earful these days about how the Smart Grid (and its smaller cousin, the microgrid) are going to make it easier to integrate renewables into their facilities energy portfolios and help solve the brittle grid to boot.

Last week a colleague of mine and I were at the GridWeek conference in DC, one of the more prominent of the many dozens of Smart Grid-related conferences happening every year and I said we'd share some findings here on the DOD Energy Blog. Well, without further excess verbosity, here they are, visiting from a sister blog, with excerpts:
1) GridWeek Smart Grid Startups and Security
... the great Smart Grid project could fail, or fail to thrive, largely based on its ability to get security reasonably right, and because adoption will be partially determined by industry and public perception of its safety. The finding that young Smart Grid companies, as represented here, have not prioritized security action, versus titling and responsibility, is a concern.
2) Smart Grid Startups and Security: Round 2 from GridWeek
Hyperbole aside, we all know that the Smart Grid is an area of growing and inevitable security risk. If I'm a utility, and as such am a prospective new customer for a startup, and I'm held accountable to the highest security standards by those who regulate me, I'm going to be damned sure that I put prospective vendors through the ringer before bringing their technology in house. And if I'm a startup, while having a qualified security person on my staff is no silver bullet, our guess is they'll be more than worth their salary as the regulators press their security cases and the utilities/customers get more and more savvy about risk.
By the way, as far as I was able to discern, I only found one rep each from DLA and DHS in attendance, with a handful from Lockheed, Northrop and Raytheon. Will be interesting to learn just how many in the Department are tasked with monitoring which way (and how hard) the Smart Grid winds are blowing, and how to position the DOD ship for maximum advantage.

BAE and other Integrators Gearing up to Crank out Microgrids

I'll attempt follow-on posts with more more details on individual implementations, but for now here's news of a batch of integrators starting a bunch of microgrid projects. And Jeff St. John at Greentechmedia noting the applicability to DOD facilities:
BAE, for its part, joins fellow defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing that are entering the smart grid space, though those companies have primarily cast themselves as system integrators and providers of security for smart grid deployments. Still, microgrid projects seem to be a natural for military contractors, since military bases could be seen as one of the "critical assets" that need to keep the power on in case of natural disruption or intentional attack.
Here's the whole thing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Which I Take Issue with those Taking Issue with CNA's "Powering America's Defense" Energy Report

Nothing furthers understanding better than a healthy critique of a seemingly sound argument. The counter argument will either surface errors, factual or logical, which is for the good, or it's going to miss the mark and if anything further reify the positions made in the original piece. In the latest issue of National Defense magazine, I contend the authors of "National Security and Energy: Setting the Right Priorities" accomplish the latter.

I won't subject you to a point by point analysis ... this isn't a new piece of critical legislation. But briefly, the authors seek to undermine some of the foundational assumptions of the CNA report, that:
  • the US uses too much oil (by faulting the rhetoric)
  • that the US is too dependent on foreign oil, particularly from the Middle East (by saying we have a big economy and that our allies depend on it too)
  • that the report's characterization of climate change risk is not nuanced enough and should allow for regional variations and temperature change, not just rise
They then abruptly pivot to say the answer to all of the above is hybrid electric cars for the nation, and hybrid electric vehicles for the military and that our grid can't handle waves of electric cars or renewables. To me, that's way too big a leap, and is neither suggested by the title of the article, nor supported by the facts / evidence they bring to bear. The authors also point to "clean coal" as part of our energy mix; a term which for me signals the triumph of marketing over substance.

Don't get me wrong, I've cited and linked to dozens of energy related articles in National Defense, including some solid ones by Frodl and Manoyan, but IMHO, this one does little but solidify my initial reading that the CNA did a great job of summing up some super-complex challenges facing DOD and suggesting some potential ways forward.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Conference Alert: NDU Energy Security Challenge

It may be more information on energy security than you can handle. And it may be coming up too soon to make arrangements. And there may not be enough room to get in even if you wanted to. But still I thought you should know ...

The National Defense University (NDU)  is hosting a two day event titled "Energy Security: A Global Challenge," touching on almost every aspect of energy security. It's next week, 29-30 Sep 2009 at NDU, within Fort McNair on the south side of DC. As a reader of this blog, you'd be crazy not to give it a shot.

Just in case, here's a link to more info.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DIACAP a Good Fit for DOD Smart Grid Security?

... and if so, is it being used in the field as DOD rolls out its first few Smart Grid and micro grid pilots, and if so by whom?

The DOD refers to much of cyber security as Information Assurance (IA). And thes primary policy document that instructs the services on which IA controls to implement and how to get their security program right is called the DOD Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Program, or DIACAP. Here's a short Wikipedia DIACAP summary for you. While great work is being done at NIST and elsewhere right now on Smart Grid security standards, DIACAP seems like a logical starting point for securing Smart Grid devices and systems at DOD facilities.

So far I've received no answers to this question from folks I thought would know in the Department. I've heard security minded folks in the energy industry reference DOD practices as inspiration for some of their cyber security strategies, but have yet to connect the dots. I like to connect dots, so this is a point of frustration.