Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Announcing the FBCB: The Fully Burdened Cost of ... Batteries


This blog has covered energy metrics before plenty of times (don't worry - I won't do that annoying "here" and "here" and "here" thing; you can search for yourself). Over time, we've seen the 7-step Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF) methodology genericized by the Army into the Fully Burdened Cost of Energy (FBCE), and now, thanks to an enterprising group of DOD energy specialists at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterrey, it's morphed into the Fully Burdened Cost of Batteries (FBCB).

In their brand-new paper and presentation "Batteries on the Battlefield: Developing a Methodology to Estimate the Fully Burdened Cost of Batteries in the Department of Defense" Marine Major Troy Kiper, Army Major Anthony Hughley, and Army Major Mark McClellan build on work already underway in OSD and the Army for the fuels supply chain, and modify it to reflect the particularities of the battery world.

For one thing, as Major Kiper points, there's a huge difference because whereas fuels just burn up, the FBCB is a double supply chain, with energized batteries going in, and depleted batteries coming out of the combat zone. It's nice that they develop both CONUS and operational scenarios, as some previous studies have taken the easy way out and only focused on peacetime ops at home.

For me, the biggest things to get at are less about dollar costs and more about mission enhancement or impairment. This report does the job for the supply chain/convoy/force protection concerns. But in the recommendations section, it also notes that further goodness could be derived by examining the effects of battery weights on soldiers. I hope these guys get a chance to go after this info in detail, but can tell you already, even from this ivory tower, that reducing battery loads on troops will produce more effective, less exhausted fighters every time.

Photo credit: Defenseindustrydaily.com

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bullish on Smart-BEAR for Better Expeditionary Power Generation and Management

This is still in the development stages, so don't get too excited. But Lockheed's BEAR generator is proven, so it's not as big a leap as it might seem at first. This will be renewables supplementing diesel, plus power management, and together with storage, an enabler of a true tactical microgrid. From the press release:
Key ... capabilities include operating in both grid-tied and grid-independent modes. The system will independently sustain critical power loads when the primary grid is unavailable, supplementing conventional diesel generation with solar and wind power. The system is also designed for rapid deployment and will fit in standard shipping containers.
And with SkyBuilt as a partner for the mobile renewables integration and packaging, this indeed looks promising.Skybuilt may be familiar to long-time readers of this blog, and was first covered here back in 2008.

Here's the full release, and while we're at it, you can see the Air Force's own statement of objectives for this system right here. Oh, and here's why the base systems is called BEAR: it's actually "Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources." Acronym writers working overtime .... When ready to field, hopefully the other services will get to try Smart BEARs as well.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lovins addresses New Nuclear Power for DOD (Q&A 3 of 3)

In this, the third and final post in a short series of Q's & A's with RMI founder Amory B. Lovins, we ask him to take what he's been recently saying and thinking about "new nuclear" energy technology and articulate it strictly from a DOD perspective. Lovins is no stranger to DOD, and played major roles in both of the highly influential Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force on Energy reports (2001 and 2008). He's a thought-leading outsider who knows more about DOD and energy--where it's been and where it needs to go--than maybe all the readers and writers of this blog put together. That said, please read the following with a critical eye and see if it holds up for you.

Question 3: Are there any points in particular you'd like to call out re: the on nuclear energy generation potential for DOD?
ABL: Yes. Two major technical task forces evaluating DoD's energy options have carefully considered the various nuclear technologies at diverse scales that were vigorously suggested to them. Both pointedly declined to recommend military pursuit of any nuclear technology to power facilities. My 1Q2010 Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ) article "DoD's Energy Challenge as Strategic Opportunity" explains, with footnotes omitted:
"Nuclear power is sometimes suggested for land installations or even expeditionary forces, typically without discussing cost (grossly uncompetitive), modern renewables (typically much cheaper), operational reliability (usually needing 100% backup), or security. For these and other reasons, the 2008 DSB and JASON task forces didn’t endorse this option."
Some of the task forces' reasons are obvious. For isolated or grid-connected fixed installations, any mini-reactor would require 100% backup, as analysis of a Toshiba ~10-MWe unit proposed for the fly-in village of Galena, Alaska confirmed. Moreover, its economics would be dreadful. Unconservatively assuming the same $2,500/KWe capital cost at 10 MWe as at 50 MWe, a found that if the reactor (with capex upwards of 9¢/KWh) and its licensing (roughly comparable or larger under current rules), its installation and removal, and its decommissioning were all free, if O&M costs were half Toshiba's estimate for the 50-MWe design, and if NRC dropped the required security staffing from 34 to 4 guards, then the ~5–14¢/KWh operating cost alone might compete with diesel's, burning costly barged-in fuel; but to make even this work, the study had to make many absurd assumptions. I'm unaware of any remote installation for which a mini-reactor can be shown to be competitive.
Nor, inherently, can a mini-reactor's security of supply approach that of a properly designed network of diverse and distributed sources. The principles of resilient design, summarized in Ch. 13 of " Brittle Power", are no more compatible with a single power source than are the principles of least cost . Nuclear power does not earn a place in a "diversified" DOD energy supply portfolio simply by being different, any more than a financial portfolio should include one of everything on offer. Rather, a balanced portfolio includes only assets with a clear risk-and-return rationale.
The Naval situation is different, but not completely, as my JFQ article continued:
"After vast investment in hardware and a unique technical culture, nuclear propulsion has proven its merit in submarines and aircraft carriers. In 2006–09, Congressional enthusiasts announced supposed Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) findings that nuclear propulsion in new medium surface combatants could beat $70/bbl oil. However, the 2008 DSB task force discovered that NAVSEA’s actual finding ($75–225/bbl) had improperly assumed a zero real discount rate. A 3%/y real discount rate yielded a $132–345/bbl break even oil price; NAVSEA didn’t respond to requests to test the 7%/year real discount rate OMB probably mandates. Presumably the Secretary of Defense will reject this option and focus resources on making ships optimally efficient."
In short, as my JFQ article concluded, "The 2008 DSB and JASON studies are redirecting the military energy conversation from exotic, speculative, and often inappropriate supplies to efficient use, which makes autonomous in-theater supply important and often cost-effective...."
It's therefore disappointing to see that some in the Building, apparently unaware of the full competitive landscape, are now wasting still more time and money on nuclear power after both of DOD's advisory bodies rejected it for many compelling reasons. I hope the Congressionally mandated report the DOD Energy Blog mentions (4th paragraph: here), due 1 Jun 2010, will dig deeper than the current cheer-leading—originating ultimately from vendors desperate to find a cost-insensitive customer for technologies already rejected by the marketplace.
There you have it, sports fans. Amory's systems-based, economics-grounded response has substantially squelched my recently burgeoning enthusiasm for a new nuclear component to DOD's energy portfolio. I have to check my own cheer-leading tendencies sometimes. That said, if there's a man or woman among you who wants to attempt a public retort to these arguments, be my guest ... and good luck, you're going to need it!

Photo Credit: Edmunds.com

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Air Force Fusing Operational and Facilities Energy Strategies in 2010


Other than pondering the potential future energy demand impact of a having a squillion UAVs in the air 24/7, you may have noticed the Air Force hasn't had much of a presence on this blog for a while. Well, seems like they've been hunkered down getting their ducks lined up cause now all of a sudden, they've leapt to a DOD-leading position on energy.

When you really think about it, we wouldn't have any CONUS bases if "facilities" were not essential for accomplishing "the mission". Energy actions by DOD orgs not in service of the mission are not sustainable, and we've been picking up multiple signals lately that USAF senior leadership sees integrated, enterprise-wide energy management as integral to the Air Force mission, not just feel-good window dressing.

Setting the Stage: DASD Robyn's Testimony on Energy Role in Mission Assurance
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations & Environment, Dorothy Robyn, had this to say to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) in February of this year. First, acknowledging the "brittle grid" problem facing bases:
Installation energy management is key to mission assurance. According to the Defense Science Board, DOD’s reliance on a fragile commercial grid to deliver electricity to its installations places the continuity of critical missions at serious and growing risk. Most installations lack the ability to manage their demand for and supply of electrical power and are thus vulnerable to intermittent and/or prolonged power disruption due to natural disasters, cyberattacks and sheer overload of the grid.
... and this calling for moving from a compliance-driven slow march to an empowered mindset of continual improvement targeting real mission assurance actions:
Over the last five years, the Department has steadily reduced energy consumption per square foot at our permanent installations, largely in response to statutory and regulatory goals. While continuing that very positive trend, it is time for us to adapt our approach to installation energy management from one that is primarily focused on compliance to one that is focused on long-term ... mission assurance.
Long term mission assurance - you've got to love that. The Air Force now seems to be moving in that direction.

2010 AF Posture Statement

Here are the most senior seniors in the Department saying what they're going to do. See page 19 of this doc: it doesn't get any more simple or sweeping than this:
The Air Force as an institution will make an "institutional effort to consider energy management in all that we do"].
Back to the mission point, though. And it's that "all we do" is about the mission and the mission only.

2011 USAF Budget

It's always been a reliable axiom that if you want to know what's really going on, follow the money. To that end, you can see energy policy achieving much more prominence in the Air Force's budget documents for the coming year (see pages 67-68). I note this statement in particular:
Energy use in the battlespace drives monetary costs and operational risks; therefore, it is essential to ensure it is appropriately considered from a systems and concept of operations viewpoint.
You'll see it also comes right out and says the AF is making energy-related KPPs and FBCF factors central to how it does business. Saying it is one thing; implementing it is another, but there's no doubt this is encouraging.

The USAF Energy Forum III
All of this goodness will be showcased in USAF's next big energy event, and I've got just two things to say about this forum, coming up fast on May 27 and 28 in DC. First, its strategy of focusing on Major Command (MAJCOM) energy efforts means that while we're still in the early days, energy management is truly being "operationalized". That says a lot of about the effectiveness of the AF's culture change strategy.

Second, as the brochure says, the theme is "Energy as an Operations Enabler." But then note in the list of topics to be covered there is no distinction between operational and non-operational. What's implied, then, is that if it's not about the mission, then it's not something the AF is working on. This may be a subtle point, but to me it speaks volumes about the maturation of USAF's energy policy development. Click here for more info on the Forum including how to register.

Photo Credit: Lance Cheung on Flickr

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lovins addresses New Nuclear Power for DOD (Q&A 2 of 3)

This post asks Amory Lovins to respond more specifically to new technologies related to 3rd and particularly 4th generation reactors.

Question 2: Some make the case that recently popular, small, modular design reactors solve many of the challenges of the large, capital intensive, centralized predecessors. These are still just concepts at this time. Do you feel they're worth pursuing ... why or why not?
ABL: No. My paper "'New Nuclear Reactors, Same Old Story" summarizes why not. Again, the fundamental issue is economics. The systems needed to confine radiation and to manage and capture heat from any sort of reactor do not scale down well. The argument that offsetting and indeed greater economies can be obtained from mass production fails to note that the main competitors (efficiency and micropower) not only scale down well but are also decades ahead in capturing their own economies of mass production, so nuclear can never catch up. This conclusion does not depend on the specific technology proposed (Hyperion, NuScale, Toshiba 4S, etc.); it depends only on nuclear engineering basics and on the observed status and trajectory of competitors.
Another way of saying it is that simpler, more efficient approaches are readily available and so we shouldn't distract ourselves with nuclear. In the linked article, Lovins comes out swinging and never relents:
Novel [new] designs claimed to solve LWRs╩╝ problems of economics, proliferation, and waste .... But on closer examination, the two kinds most often promoted—Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs) and thorium reactors—reveal no economic, environmental, or security rationale, and the [business case] is unsound for any nuclear reactor.
My interpretation is that Lovins' case does not rely on fear or emotional appeal. It's not Three Mile Island. It's not Chernobyl. It's dollars and cents and other types of sense. In case you're joining late, opening round Question 1 was answered previously here. Stay tuned for the third and final question that asks Lovins to focus his nuclear thinking in particular on DOD applications. Anyone want to argue back?