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:

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.

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"


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