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.
March 2010 Update: Progress! We've gone from nomination to testimony and questioning before the Senate Armed Services Committee ... documented here.
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.


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.