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.

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