Wednesday, December 22, 2010

HOMER for the Holidays: Tools for Energy Security

In the process of operational and logistics planning, military planners have a plethora of tools available to determine troop strength, enemy intentions, supply requirements, etc. When the decision is made at a forward operating base to transition from unit equipment supported operations to contractor supported, the tools available are very limited. There is the CENTCOM Sandbook and the LOGCAP contract. Although dated, this presentation gives a pretty good feel for the complexity of what must be done.

After several months in one location, position improvements increase security and quality of life. LOGCAP supplements or replaces unit equipment and inefficient spot generation gives way to central power plants. One of the challenges for commanders who choose renewable over diesel power generation is determining what systems will best support their operations. The military has had decision support systems for every potential operation except for renewable deployment, until now.

Captain Brandon Newell, late of the Marine Energy Assessment Team and the Naval Post Graduate School and now assigned to the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office has proposed a solution to that problem. CAPT Newell also spent time at the National Renewable Energy Lab and has figured out how to adapt their HOMER model for use in FOBs. HOMER is an energy modeling tool for designing and analyzing hybrid power systems. The Hybrid Optimization Model for Electric Renewables (Dooah!) was developed by the National Renewable Energy Lab and then commercialized by HOMER Energy LLC.

The thesis extract can be found here and the full thesis is here. What CAPT Newell found was that the model could be calibrated to specific power system in order to estimate energy production. With adaptation the model served to compare energy systems effectively. This means that rather than pulling the standard LOGCAP contract off the shelf for a FOB transition to a more enduring status, facilities engineers now have a tool that allows them see what non fossil fuel options are open to them. I hope they take their lead from CAPT Newell’s work and exploit this tool to reduce fuel use and transportation.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tom Friedman on Navy Energy

Here is a great piece by Tom Friedman on Navy efforts in clean, secure energy. He points out the challenges of developing and deploying these systems because of Congressional lobbying efforts by fossil fuel companies, a challenge not felt by Marines using renewable energy to secure their own lines of communication. In Andy’s most recent post, most of the efforts describe in Friedman’s OpEd are described in detail. Unfortunately, SecNavy Ray Mabus' speech writers are not reading this blog. We are still seeing the $400/gal number tossed around. Thanks to Gueta Mezzetti and Steve Anderson for highlighting this to us.

Next up: What to expect in the coming New Year in DoD Energy. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 DOD Energy Year in Review

In the 2009 review we remarked that it was the first year that had enough going on to merit a DOD Energy "Top Ten." In 2010, we're nearly as far away from powering all DOD operations and facilities with unlimited, locally generated, clean energy, not to mention fielding platforms that run on that power, while also getting through all the other KPP hoops by being: lethal, survivable, transportable, networked and of course, inexpensive to actually procure in super-tight fiscal environments.

But there were some clear leadership and organizational signals that we're leaving the energy status quo past behind. Here's a few of them that stood out for Dan and me:

1. The Marines are always first in, and true to form, they started the year off right with a great expeditionary energy conference we covered HERE and especially HERE.

2. We took note of several new appointments as some energy leaders were on the move, including:
  • RADM Kunkel takes charge of DESC (now DLA Energy). Posted HERE
  • Richard Kidd joins Army Energy, HERE
  • Green turned kind of blue when Kevin Geiss joined Air Force Energy, noted HERE
  • Katherine Hammack takes on Army Operational and Installations Energy, HERE
3. Teaming trends - two of them for you:
  • Surf met turf when the Navy and the USDA agreed to join forces on shared efficiency and renewables objectives. Read all about it HERE
  •  DOD and DOE announced tighter teaming on energy HERE
4. The long-awaited nomination and appointment of a senior level central coordinator of operational energy finally came to pass when Sharon Burke got her hearing and then became our first DOEPP. We were pretty excited about this, covering her HEARING, APPOINTMENT, and doing a one-on-one interview with Ms. Burke when it was all over HERE.

5. Energy plans and reports were many and good, including the first QDR to cover energy issues in some detail:
6. On the technology and policy maturation front, towards the end of the year Dan noted a procurement that tells us a profound shift is underway. A big new remote radar installation is in the works, and renewable energy is going to have a significant role, for reasons we really like. As Dan observed:
The significance of this event is the almost routine incorporation of alternative energy into such a major program. There is no discussion of the fully burdened cost of fuel or energy as a key performance parameter.  It just makes good business sense.
Nice, eh? There's more on that HERE.

7. Lastly, lest you think it was all forward progress, we got a late-in-year punch-in-the-gut reminder of how fragile our fuel logistics are when a blockade on the AfPak border blockade exposed our huge reliance on overland fuel transport. Dan hit that HERE and HERE.

But overall, as you can probably tell, we thought it was a pretty great year. Please have wonderful holiday times with family and friends ... we're going take a few short breaks ourselves ... and let's get back to work big time in 2011.

Photo credit: Kris Bradley on

Friday, December 10, 2010

DESC From Above

Forty bundles of fuel fall from a United States Air Force Globemaster III aircraft over Afghanistan, Dec. 8, 2010. The aircraft is assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andy Kin

OK, I know there is no more DESC, but couldn't resist the line and I wanted to share this great picture. Above a C17 is dropping pallets of what appear to be four, fifty five gallon drums of fuel. Forty pallets mean about 8800 gallons or about 1/10th of what Camp Leatherneck uses in a day. If the NATO contract delivered prices was $6.30, then the unburdened cost was about $55k. Now, since a C17 gets great gas mileage, around 10 gal/mi and we figure a couple of hundred miles to the target, then the round trip gas cost is about $25k. Throw in maintenance, ground crew, air crew and all the other bells and whistles and let’s say another $20k we have a nearly fully burdened cost of about $11 bucks. Not sure I could stretch it to $400.

The fact is they have to get the mission done and they will continue to get it done. We owe them alternatives. As those of us who are back in the good ole’ US of A prepare for the holiday season, give thanks to those who stand at freedom’s gate for us. No matter the cost, they stand ready. Thank you, men and women of our Armed Forces.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mabus and Anderson Rock NPR

DoD Energy leadership, in and outside the institution, are of continued interest to the public at large. The impact of the Department’s efforts are recognized and appreciated. Two recent interviews on NPR’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow featured Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus (pictured) and BG(R) Steve Anderson.

Mabus is well known for his aggressive stance on energy for the Navy and Anderson was the champion of energy demand reduction when he served as GEN Petraus’ senior loggie. Steve worked tirelessly to find ways to reduce fuel use by finding the best approaches to reduce electricity requirements and therefore get trucks off the road.

The interview is available here. Certainly worth a listen. Steve Anderson makes me look shy and retiring when it comes to his critique of current policy. Keep up the fire!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Making It Routine: The Space Fence on Renewables

In 1958 the U.S. Navy began the design and construction of a system intended to monitor satellites tracking U.S. ship movement. In 2004 the program was transferred to the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force Space Surveillance Fence (or Space Fence) is part of the Space Surveillance Network (SSN). The system will employ continuous wave radar to tracks objects in low and medium Earth orbit (LEO and MEO). The Space Fence will be capable of detecting basketball‐sized objects as far away as 15,000 nautical miles (approximately 30,000 kilometers) and collects an average of 5 million individual observations every month.

The huge S-band radars will require enormous amounts of energy and the Air Force is looking at the long term cost of supplying that energy at remote locations. Typically, large diesel generators would be the standard solution to this problem. Cheap, non intermittent, assured, onsite power always makes military guys feel better. Yet the USAF is taking a different tact.

According to a news release out of Hanscom Air Force Base, the long term cost to support the Fence makes the use of alternative and renewable energy cost effective and the smart choice. The total anticipated cost of the system is expected to be $3.5 billion. The USAF Electronic Systems Center released an RFP for two preliminary design review contracts for up to $214 million. Program manager, Linda Haines wants to lower operational costs AND the carbon footprint.

"While we could incur some relatively small upfront additional investment costs, we see potential annual savings over our diesel fuel baseline of $25 million to $40 million a year, or total lifecycle cost savings of $500 million to $1 billion, with the right mix," said Haines.

The significance of this event is the almost routine incorporation of alternative energy into such a major program. There is no discussion of the fully burdened cost of fuel or energy as a key performance parameter. It just makes good business sense. It is about reducing recurring fuel costs. Each site will have its own characteristics and potential sources of energy. They will be excellent platforms for demonstrating hybrid mixes of energy production, storage and smart grid technologies.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory is a key player in this effort and is advising the USAF in the program. Among the major defense firms bidding on this project, Lockheed Martin has submitted their response. There is no mention of alternative energy in LM’s press release, but one must assume that the big defense firms will be getting the message. Incorporation of alternative energy, energy storage and smart grid technologies should and will become routine and just another “MilSpec”. We hope that day has come. Good on you, Air Force!

Space Fence, image courtesy of NASA