Sunday, August 30, 2009

DOD Energy Blog Interview with Amory Lovins - 5 Part Series (part 4)

Moving now from a response on the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF) energy metric being worked at the Pentagon to a question that's a lot less direct.

Question 4) In a recent article in Foreign Affairs called "The Pentagon's Wasting Assets" (to which a response was posted on this blog, here) there seem to be recommendations for valuing Endurance more than we do today. Is this at all in alignment with your thinking?
Lovins: Very much so. Krepinevich's article encapsulates some, though not all, of the important trends that make Endurance and Resilience vital to future military success. For example, as our 2008 Defense Science Board Task Force report More Fight—Less Fuel maintained:
"Endurance exploits improved energy efficiency ... to extend range and dwell—recognizing the need for affordable dominance, requiring little or no fuel logistics, in persistent, dispersed, and remote operations, while enhancing overmatch in more traditional operations."
A lean fuel logistics tail also increases mobility, maneuver, tactical and operational flexibility, versatility, and reliability. All these attributes are required to combat asymmetrical, adaptive, demassed, elusive, and faraway adversaries. Endurance is even more valuable in stability operations, which often need even more persistence, dispersion, and affordability than the combat operations with which they now enjoy comparable priority under DoDD Memo 3000.05, sec 4.1. 
Seems to me all of the characteristics Lovins attributes to his hypothetical adversaries are in play in the AfPak region, and that UAVs like the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, which can loiter for 14 hours fully armed and for 30 hours with a lighter payload, are effective for all the reasons described above. And others see this as well. As Thomas Barnett recently wrote, UAVs are "re-symmetricizing the battlefield in a much-needed manner."

The last question in this series of questions and answers with Amory Lovins will address DOD's dependency on the brittle national grid.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Convoy-Free Electricity Ready for Prime Time?

I'm not saying this company's solutions are ready to put old-fashioned field generators out of business. But I am suggesting that, for some applications, its mobile "Titan" and "Mojo," in individual and tandem configurations, begin to offer commanders a path away from the current, convoy-dependent status quo. Actually, with these solutions, unless the equipment is airlifted, one convoy is required to deliver the systems to station. But the beauty is, once it's on the job, it requires zero diesel or J-P8 to operate.

Had the chance to speak with an executive at mobile energy provider, White Door, and learned about the company's offerings and what these guys are up to. Founded 7 years ago to make self powered sensor platforms, mobile energy generation on a larger scale is now their goal ... and their offerings show they're beginning to reach it. Not only do these integrated wind, solar, battery and fuel cell systems provide reliable, nearly silent, low-heat signature power, they have a new unit that generates as much as 30 KW.

One potential weakness that would immediately give DOD planners pause would be the systems' dependency on intermittent energy sources. Well, it appears that White Door has tackled that problem. The executive said they purposely "over-engineer" each systems' energy storage, providing 5+ days of back-up capacity should the wind cease to blow and the sun cease to shine for that long. There's also an option for a fuel cell back-up should the 5-day capacity still cause concern.

The Marines are field testing these units right now. More info is available here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When will Storage be up to Snuff?

As the development of renewable energy sources and smart/micro grid technologies proceed apace, one major gap in capability is becoming increasingly obvious, and that's energy storage. For an update on where things stand right now one couldn't do better than attend the next Energy Conversation. The guest speaker, Dr. Imre Gyuk, Director of Storage for the Department of Energy, will present "The Power of Storage - A 21st Century Energy Revolution."

Here are the logistics for you: 15 Sep 09, 1730 start time, L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, 480 L’Enfant Plaza, SW, Washington, DC. Click here to register.

Monday, August 24, 2009

DOD Energy Blog Interview with Amory Lovins - 5 Part Series (part 3)

Part 2 of this series dealt with the Energy Efficiency Key Performance Parameter (KPP); in part 3 responds to a question I ask him on the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF).

Question 3) Certain folks in the Pentagon have told me that the word "Cost" in the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel is causing them trouble getting the concept promulgated. They say "cost" pushes the whole endeavor towards bean counters and takes it off of everyone else's plate. And that bean counters don't really know what to do with it. Your thoughts on this?  Would use of Endurance/Resilience help move the ball forward in your opinion?
Lovins: I think formal entry of the Endurance and Resilience strategic vectors into doctrine would help enormously to drive Department-wide adoption of thinking and choices consistent with them. Meanwhile, perhaps we should talk instead about "Fully Burdened Value of Fuel." Properly valuing saved fuel (like saved mass, volume, or any other parameter) lets us think straight about how efficiently to use them. Valuing saved fuel at often one (and sometimes two) orders of magnitude more than we did before makes a huge difference. When we assumed fuel logistics was free and invulnerable we had no incentive to change. Fully weighting the full value of fuel and fuel assets will result in radically more efficient and capable platforms, with extraordinary implications both for warfighting capability and for a more stable world. Think about moving away from oil dependence and climate change drivers, for example. There are some categories where less is definitely more.
Next up I challenge Lovins to draw some actionable conclusions about a recent article that got some attention on this blog: "The Pentagon's Wasting Assets" which appeared in Foreign Policy journal. Here's that post if you want to do some prep.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More Money Coming for FBCF?

Some readers will be able to make more of this earkmark notice than me. It appears that a member of the House of Representatives is trying to get $5 million to OSD Research, Development Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) to help advance thinking and methodologies related to the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF). The reference to combat vehicles certainly makes it appear that this money may be designed to help the Joint Lightweight Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) folks (or others) do the analysis they're supposed to be doing related to more fully weighting energy factors in this program.

For more context, here's a recent post on JLTV and the FBCF.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

DOD Energy Blog Interview with Amory Lovins - 5 Part Series (part 2)

Yesterday was about Lovins' advocacy for resilience and endurance as new Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) and their relationship to the Energy Efficiency KPP. Today I'm asking what's up with the latter ... is anybody really using it (see JLTV post) and if he had his druthers, on what types of programs would he recommend using it next. Here's the Q&A:

Question 2) The Army's Joint Lightweight Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is the only remaining demonstration program for the Energy Efficiency KPP and it looks like the Army's trying to use it ... a least a little bit. That said, do you have any other programs in mind, existing or future, that might be good exemplars for energy-related KPPs?
Lovins: I believe we need to demonstrate energy as a KPP on mobility platforms and electronic systems, in each of the Services, and preferably on the big ACAT I and ACAT 2 programs. So in addition to JLTV, we should look at vehicle mounted, APU-requiring power-intensive electronics like the Cruise Missile Defense Systems – for example, Patriot / MEADS systems and its associated radar systems. Not only should energy as a KPP be added to a ship program, but it should be added to power-intensive ship defense systems like the Ship Self-Defense System managed by NAVSEA's PEO Integrated Warfare System.
What's more, I'd like to see some serious thinking about leap-ahead, rapidly fieldable, super-efficient platforms applied to the Reset opportunity. For example, the blast-bucket light armored ground vehicle described in our 2008 DSB report would seem an apt approach to replacing those HMMVVs, rather than just building more of the same for $85+ billion. Our Task Force recommended rapid development that has not yet occurred. What are we waiting for?
Good stuff, and very good question to close. Apart from the usual bureaucratic inertia, who knows the answer to this? Well?

Next up, Lovins on the current state of another key metric: the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

DOD Energy Blog Interview with Amory Lovins - 5 Part Series (part 1)

This past weekend I had the good fortune to go through a little Q&A with perhaps the best informed expert on energy efficiency, energy metrics and the DOD. Based on what I'd heard about his latest thinking on some new factors to value in force structure considerations and the requirements development process, as well as the current state of energy affairs inside the department, I put forth five questions and got five answers. Here's the first exchange:

1) Do you intend Endurance and/or Resilience as more specific replacements for the long-coming Energy Efficiency Key Performance Parameter (KPP)?

Lovins: No. I hope they become new strategic vectors that enter doctrine and drive strategy, organizational structure, training, reward systems, cultures, and behaviors, just as Speed, Stealth, Precision, and Networking have done. An Energy Efficiency KPP, like Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF), is an important tool for ensuring that requirements-writing, designs, choices in the tradespace, and procurement align with the Endurance vector. They also support Resilience, since the most "bounce per buck" in ensuring electric-system resilience comes from end-use efficiency, which stretches what resilient supplies can do, makes failures more graceful, and buys time to fix what's broken or to improvise new supplies.
There you have it. Prior to this response, though I'd heard about Endurance and Resilience for over a year, I wasn't sure how they fit (or didn't fit) vis a vis his thinking on the Energy Efficiency KPP. What of that KPP anyway ... how's it doing these days and where might it go? Part 2 takes the conversation in that direction. Stay tuned.

DOD Speaking More Openly about its Energy Plans

Someone near the top has clearly decided to take the department's communications on energy efficiency and renewables up a notch. Actually, up several notches. I may be out of a job soon if they keep cranking out features such as this one on Defenselink. Please check it out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Observations and Presentations from the 2009 Marine Corps Energy Conference

Roving DOD Energy Blog correspondent Dan Nolan attended the Summit and has provided the following dispatch for your edification:
According to the letter from the Commandant in the glossy brochure provided, the purpose of the of the conference was to “examine the impact (of energy issues) on the Marine Corps and look toward solutions for the future.”. The event opened as only Marines can do it, with a posting of the Colors and the Commandant’s own brass. This was followed by the introduction of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James T. Conway. And here's the really good part: 
Instead of platitudes, we got marching orders. The Marines will send an energy assessment team to Afghanistan by the end of the month. The Marines will establish an Energy Office at Headquarters, Marine Corps, and will accomplish 10 specific energy-related efforts by 2010 ... "10 by ’10!".
After 45 minutes of unscripted remarks peppered with relevant facts and figures on Marine Corps' energy challenges and accomplishments, the Commandant sat down ... but he stayed. And he was still in the house when the Secretary of the Navy, Raymond Mabus spoke next. He was there when Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality spoke at lunch. And he was there when the panel of retired flag officers and energy experts (including Richard Kidd, director of DOE/FEMP) finished their presentations.
Every service is addressing energy issues through forums, but I have never seen a Service Chief devote an entire day to an open event like this. If this does not make clear the Marine Corps' absolute commitment to energy security, nothing does. Once again (sorry, my Army brothers and sisters) the Marine Corps leads the way.
Semper Fidelis.
Thanks Dan. And while it won't be the same as being there, not by a long stretch, here are some of the presentations for your viewing pleasure at home or work.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Wasting Assets" is No Way to Win Future Wars

Hat tip to Navy Captain Clayton Mitchell for recommending GovEnergy folks read this Andrew Krepinevich article in Foreign Affairs journal. Titled "The Pentagon's Wasting Assets," it describes a military leviathan in decline on a number of fronts, particularly citing marked erosion of the US's once invincible edge in technology. It's a very sobering read.

Here's a section that highlights mission-limiting energy dependencies without saying it in quite those words:
East Asian waters are slowly but surely becoming another potential no-go zone for U.S. ships, particularly for aircraft carriers, which carry short-range strike aircraft that require them to operate well within the reach of the PLA’s Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) systems if they want remain operationally relevant. The large air bases in the region that host the U.S. Air Force’s short-range strike aircraft and support aircraft are similarly under increased threat.
And a couple of energy efficiency fueled concepts in the "modest proposals" section:
Loitering “hunter-killer” reconnaissance and strike aircraft—both manned and unmanned—could be used to search for enemy [precision guided missile] equipped forces and, once identified, engage them quickly before the enemy can fire or disperse.
and ...
To avoid operational irrelevance, carriers should reduce their reliance on short-range manned aircraft in favor of much longer-range unmanned aircraft, some of which are now in development.
It's interesting to note that these factors map well against Amory Lovins' recent emphasis on adding two new vectors for developing requirements for systems: endurance and resilience (more on these later). I recall Captain Mitchell concluding by saying how he hoped DOD's emerging emphasis on energy strategy might help provide our forces new tactical advantages over adversaries not thinking along these lines. I too share his sentiment, but we'll have to see how quickly/seriously senior leadership moves on these issues.

BTW, if you want to read the full article (and you should), it'll set you back 99 cents for the PDF.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Billings Reflects on his Time as Energy Exec

There's a lot of wisdom in former Air Force energy exec Kevin Billing's post game analysis of his time in office. The whole article is here, but the part that's most applicable to the work of this blog and its readership is called "Respect the Systems":
You are in an organization of hundreds of thousands of people, in uniform, civilians and contractors. They manage thousands of programs worth hundreds of billions of dollars. There must be systems and processes to manage it all. Will you find that constraining? Yes. Can they be improved? Yes, your ideas on how to improve them are important. How you get from here to there will be dependent on how well you work within the system. You will be able to change certain things simply because of your throw-weight. But if you want the change to be lasting, it must be written down, vetted and cemented in policy. This is the really hard work of government. Walking things through what seems to be endless coordination is often what separates lasting policy from the flavor of the month. Cultivate those who understand and can effectively work the system.
That last sentence ... that's addressed to you, and others who care (and know) enough to keep pushing energy policy improvements until senior leadership cries "Uncle".

Drinking Straight from the Energy Security Firehose, Volume 2: GovEnergy 2009

My first Energy Security Firehose was the third Admiral Moorer DOD energy conference held last December at NDU. All the folks who make DOD energy policy and appear on this blog, many of the participants of the 2008 DSB Energy Task Force report, were in the same room and I couldn't believe it. Since then I went to the NDIA Energy and Environment conference in Denver this Spring but instead found little "energy" and despite the "D" in NDIA, not much DOD. CNAS in May was much better.

But this week, with GovEnergy 2009 in Providence, RI, (with a few exceptions) the gang was all here. And that included the old guard, folks who have made their mark and trained the next generation, who recently left their DOD positions to join the fight from the industry side: Paul Bollinger (Army) and Mike Aimone (Air Force).

After this morning's fantastic Energy Security Game (more on that later), the closing Agency Panel Discussion showcased some of the professionals at the energy security helm in mid 2009:
  • Brian Lally - OSD
  • Kevin Geiss - Army
  • Mike McGhee - Air Force
  • Clayton "Mitch" Mitchell - Navy
To these were added FERC Reliability Director Joe McClelland and newcomer Jack Danahy, cyber security advisor to DOD and Congress, now working in the CTO's office at IBM Rational.

I'll be doing a few follow-on posts highlighting this remarkable conference. Which O-BTW, in the worst economy in recent memory, Brad Hancock and Scott McCain grew from 2,600 attendees in 2008 to 3,400 this year. Obviously, the passion of the DOD and its energy leaders is at least matched by the passion of the many who work these issues in the field and flock to this event to hear them out. Stay tuned ...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Conference Announcement: Naval Energy Forum coming in October

Energy matters have clearly become important at the most senior levels of leadership in the services lately. It was just announced that Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, will speak on the first day of the two-day Naval Energy Forum. The venue is the Hilton at Tysons Corner, VA and the dates are 14 and 15 October 2009. More info can be found here

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

DARPA Wants Portable Solar Power to be Light

Here's another instance where renewables are being considered for use, not because they are green, but because they allow the shortest logistics tail:
DARPA is holding out for cutting edge solar technology in a military landscape that is increasingly reliant on portable electronic devices. Fueling [portable] devices is a logistical challenge of epic proportions, especially when it comes down to powering up individual troops and robotic devices. Oil, coal, and other fossil fuels won’t cut it, nuclear is not an option when it comes to small mobile units, and conventional batteries are proving far too heavy and short-lived.
Full article here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Future Planes on Approach for DOD Service

OK, they won't be arriving tomorrow, but somewhere between the X-Prize for automobiles and the X-Prize for private low-earth orbit private spacecraft, lies NASA and the CAFE Foundation challenge for "Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency."

Combine the quest for more efficient airframes and engines with new fuels and fuel types, with the explosion of UAVs across the mission spectrum and who knows what the hell airplanes, let alone ours and other air forces, are going to look like in a couple of decades.

One thing's for sure: it won't be a simple extrapolation beyond where we are today from where we've been. Using a 75kW electric motor using brushless technology, the all-electric lithium polymer powered plane pictured here just reached 250 KPH. Do you suppose future tankers, fueled with JP-8 or electricity, will dangle extension cords to re-charge power hungry manned and unmanned aircraft?

Photo: DigiSky

Geiss Marks a Turning Point in Army Energy Thinking

I really like the way Army Energy Program Director Kevin Geiss puts the focus squarely on Energy Security as a basis for new infrastructure moves such as a new 500 MW solar roll out at Fort Irwin, California:
One way to look at this is to just take a step back and not use the word renewable or alternative or anything and say okay, if we were going to try to get power and energy for our installations and we wanted to make sure that we have consistent access, that it’s affordable, that we would be at a low risk for disruption, that we would have decreased impact on the environment, I would say that our renewable and alternative energies would pop to the top of the list.
At some point, if not now, renewable energy simply becomes energy, and if you have your selection criteria set to the key drivers of our time, then solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear and the fossil big 3 all get a hearing based on pro's and con's. Full Wired article from last week's DOD Bloggers' Round table is here.