Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011: DOD Energy Year in Review


A hearty holiday hello to you, dear reader. Lacking any snow in Boston, I decided to head north for a short vacation in between Christmas and New Years and ended up, quite happily, in a winter-wonderland version of Montreal.

Dan Nolan and I talked a lot as this year unfolded about whether we were seeing signs of progress, or merely activity (like a dozen or so conferences) with little direct benefit to the war fighter or the nation.

You might ask: how would we propose to measure progress ... and would we know it if we saw it?

Well sure. In my mind, we'd be stronger or much stronger on the two vectors of concern identified in the 2008 Defense Science Board Task Force report on Energy:
  1. Fuel Surety - Access to ample operational fuel supplies around the world that can be delivered without interruption to wherever it is needed, and
  2. Installation Energy Security - CONUS and other permanent bases become be markedly less dependent on the electricity from their local grid providers
I haven't provided metrics yet (and won't in this post). But one thing we both agree on is that we make demonstrable gains in both of the above objectives when we reduce the amount of fuel or electricity required to accomplish the many and varied missions of the DOD.

That's energy efficiency, also called "the fifth fuel" as noted in this late-in-the-year post, as well as this one from earlier from Dan that gets quite detailed in talking about the Marines' energy strategy with the introduction of a new metric: GPMD, for gallons per Marine per day.

In 2011, the Army, Navy and Air Force all iterated their energy strategy and planning documents and as you know, there's plenty for us to report. But as you may have guessed by now, Dan's other middle name is Accountability. At the beginning of 2011, he reminded everyone of DOD's stated goals on a number of energy initiatives including:
  • Beginning in 2010 the Navy and Marine Corps will change the way contracts are awarded with Industry being held contractually accountable for meeting energy efficiency targets
  • By 2013 DOD will procure 7.5% of its electricity from renewables; 25% by 2025
  • By 2015, DOD will reduce energy demand by 30%
  • By 2015 the Navy will cut in half the amount of petroleum used in their commercial vehicle fleet through phased adoption of hybrid, electric, and flex fuel vehicles
  • By 2016 the Navy will sail the Great Green Fleet, a carrier strike group composed of nuclear ships, hybrid electric ships running biofuel, and aircraft flying on biofuel
  • By 2016, the Air Force wants to be buying 400 million gallons of fuel alternatives that are cost competitive with petroleum based fuel and no more carbon intensive in production
    than available conventional fuels
  • By 2020, the Navy will meet 50% of their total requirements with renewables and have 50% of their installations at Net Zero
  • By 2025, the Air Force must bring 1,000 MW of renewable capacity online to meet its goals.
And in so doing, he reminded me that it's hard (more like impossible) to find anyone monitoring progress on these goals. If they're purely aspirational and not intended to drive DOD's behavior and performance, then they/we should say so. If they are hard targets that must-be-met-else-heads-will-roll, that's something quite different. We hope it's the latter, but suspect it's the former.

You should read THIS ... Dan got somewhat detailed in describing a few of the obstacles blocking attainment of these objectives, and as of late December 2011, can anyone say we are on pace, or a little ahead, or a bit behind schedule on any/all of these?

At the blog, all we really want for Christmas is for DOD Energy to be treated like the true enterprise-caliber project senior leadership says it is. We expect metrics for measurement, regular updates on how we're faring, and ready carrots and sticks to incent the right behaviors and punish the wrong ones.

OK, that's enough or now. Have to brush off my translation book (app), not to mention my car. Until next time, Bonne année et bonne santé to you and yours. And remember the troops who are in harms way.  Andy Bochman

Photo credit: DVIDS at Flickr.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Phase One SPIDERS Report


Here is the latest scoop on SPIDERS from the field:.  
The Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) energy security micro-grid government and industry partners conducted their Start of Work meeting for Phase One at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH) in Oahu 13-14 DEC 11.   After a challenging acquisition process and with widely expressed industry concerns, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) technical managers and acquisition professionals were able to select Burns and McDonnell out of several qualified respondents. In micro-grid work, the USACE appears to be accepting some technical risk as they appliqué micro-grid components and novel architecture at this scale in their push for an Enterprise solutions DoD may adopt in the future. Burns and McDonnell and their partners plan to push beyond their previous market experience in addressing technical and business case metrics. Expected outcomes include integrating existing renewable energy demonstration projects, legacy electrical infrastructure (Navy Facilities Command) and challenging Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) deliverables aimed at leaving behind real property improvements and providing lasting energy security for part of JBPHH. Final design review is expected within 90 days and construction completed by summer 2012. JCTD deliverables and evaluation reports are forecast by the end of 2012.
Since I was not present for the industry day, I have only single source reporting on this.  Anyone else care to chime in?  Another scout reported the pending release of Phase II at Fort Carson.  More at this link.  All the best, Dan Nolan

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Conference Reminder: Start 2012 Operationally


I will be publishing my prognostications for DOD Energy in 2012 following Andy's year end wrap up soon. 2011 seemed to be the year of on your mark….Get set……Get set.... I hope that 2012 is the year of GO!

With all the other holiday related events going on, I wanted to remind you about the kickoff of the 2012 DoD Energy Conference season on 23-25 January with the 9th Tactical Power Sources Summit  at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria, VA. Goals of the conference are to understand acquisition requirements and technology advancement in mobile and soldier power. 

They have an impressive list of speakers from government and academia. For those in Government that think you only have big DOD firms or companies that only started up a week ago to choose from, catch my friend Mike Bergey of Bergey WindPower on 23 Jan at the Alternative Energy Focus Day. Bergey is a small business out of Oklahoma that was founded in the ’70. 

They represent solid, reliable technology from the backbone of America: small business. Not sure what time on the 23rd, but it should be up on the website soon. That whole day focuses on seminars on latest technology for operational energy. I will be there….hope to see you too. Dan Nolan

DEB on Blogging and More

Saw Daniel Yergin yesterday and will be posting on that excellent experience soon, but before I forget, wanted to put this in front of you.

If you're one of the several thousand regular readers of the DEB (and maybe other blogs too), then you probably have a good feel for what separates a blog from a standard online news article or newspaper for that matter.

I recently came across well known tech blogger Dan Frommer's list of ingredients that make for a good blog. My favorite is #2: "Write the site that you want to read," but I think all ten points are on the mark.

If you've ever thought of writing one yourself, you'll find some simple guiding principles that'll help you have success ... and have a pleasurable experience while you're at it.

Since the holidays are approaching and you should be thinking about slowing down for a few days and enjoying some simple pleasures, here's a nice piece on the history of the Old Fashioned cocktail that includes this line:
The old-fashioned is at once "the manliest cocktail order" and "something your grandmother drank," and between those poles we discover countless simple delights, evolutionary wonders, and captivating abominations.
Pretty good, huh? Dan and may be sipping one or two of these as we prepare our DEB year in review (Andy) and 2012 preview (Dan) posts over the next few weeks. Please feel free to join us with observations and predictions of your own, and don't hold back if the urge for a classic cocktail comes over you.

Photo credit: The BittenWord.com on Flickr.com


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yergin Speaks Out Again on Favorable US Energy Security Trends

Back in September we wrote a post or two on the latest thinking on US and global energy futures from energy market guru Daniel Yergin. In today's Wall Street Journal he had a bit more say re: Energy Security that I think you'll find both helpful and promising. First, the ...
Bad News
Yergin: It is true that the U.S. is still importing a larger share of its oil than it was in 1973, at the time of the first oil crisis. Even with increased domestic production and higher imports from Canada, it will still be part of the global oil market and vulnerable to disruptions and price spikes.
Again, to reinforce: the US is both a seller and a buyer of oil and gas in the global markets, and no matter what we do, that condition will remain the same. We don't set the prices, and we don't get to keep or use all that we make. We buy from many sources, ranging from very friendly to somewhat hostile, and yet there's some significant security in that diversity. 
Now for what's gotten better lately and promises to improve even further in the years ahead thanks to some new ways to get at oil and gas.
Good News
Yergin: ... the shift in oil sources means the global supply system will become more resilient, our energy supplies will become more secure, and the nation will have more flexibility in dealing with crises. It ... also means that economic benefits—in terms of jobs, manufacturing and services—will register on the ground in North America.
Click HERE for the full article, and one more thing: I'll be attending a DY lecture tomorrow afternoon at MIT. If you have a question you'd like me to ask him, please fire away fast.

Image credit: Mitra Encyclopedia

Friday, December 9, 2011

Clock Strikes 13..... Fully Burdened BS

Former Under Secretary of the Navy and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, James Woolsey once commented on a pronouncement by a retired Admiral regarding DOD energy efforts being a fad. He equated Admiral's specious argument as “like the 13th chime of a clock – it is not only bizarre in and of itself, it calls into question everything that issues from the same source”. Nathan Hodge of the Wall Street Journal just announced that it is 13:00 o’clock.

Several people rushed to get this article in front of me and I have been slow to respond. I have grown weary of explaining from where the number $400 per gallon came. Mr. Hodge raised this boogey man in a piece about air dropping fuel in Afghanistan. An otherwise good article is marred by this inaccuracy.

Why do I get so exercised about this recurring absurdity? Because I work with many small companies and I am often approached with ideas to alleviate this supposed financial burden. “Since the average price for a gallon of fuel in Afghanistan is $400, then my plan to create fuel onsite using hope and butterfly kisses for only $350 a gallon is a steal!”. I then have to destroy their dream by telling them the truth. Part of the burden in the Fully Burden Cost of Fuel is this myth.

To reiterate, the Defense Acquisition Guidance defines FBCF as : “the cost of the fuel itself (typically the Defense Logistics Agency - Energy (DLA-E) standard price) plus the apportioned cost of all of the fuel delivery logistics and related force protection required beyond the DESC point of sale to ensure refueling of this system. “

The purpose of the FBCF is to evaluate new systems and platforms during the Analysis of Alternatives portion of the requirements process known as the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System. Materiel solutions will be considered more competitive that require less support infrastructure; that have a lower power requirement and that are more energy efficient. This will allow DoD to understand the implications of energy use in a given scenario. The FBCF is completely scenario driven based upon point to point movement of a specific variety (road march, attack, retrograde, etc). There can be no generic FBCF. So how did we get $400 a gallon?

In the Report of the Defense Science Board, More Capable Warfighting Through Reduced Fuel Burden, published in May 2001, the Board envisioned various scenarios in which what they called the “true cost of fuel” was computed. One of the scenarios postulated in the DSB report was fuel delivery to a ground mobile force 600 kilometers beyond the Forward Edge of the Battle Area, back when we had front lines; I miss the good old days. In this scenario the fuel would be delivered by CH-47 helicopters flying in three legs to Forward Area Rearm, Refuel Points (FARRP) and requiring a full fuel load for each helo at each FARRP. For a 1,500 gallon payload in each A/C and three stops there and three stops back, the fully burdened cost per gallon was $400. An exceptionally rare circumstance back then, maybe a bit more likely now. Still it was an extreme scenario.

People change behavior for one of two reasons: overwhelming opportunity or overwhelming threat. If those conditions do not obtain, the status quo will remain. Too often we have seen scare tactics used to try to change behavior. The $400 gallon is the equivalent of crying wolf. There are much better reasons to change: increased security, less actual cost and less impact on the environment. If we want to use economics, let’s build the business case, not the $1000 toilet seat case. The fully burdened cost in dollars is interesting in the acquisition program. The fully burdened cost in blood is the real story. Dan Nolan

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reaching Economic Parity in Some Regions, Solar is on the March

Dependable tech prognosticator Ray Kurzweil has been calling it. But I realize that even hinting that solar is starting to make financial sense vs. fossils  is bound to set off a chorus along the lines of "you granola chomping, Birkenstock donning, eco-utopian, bio-dome occupying dreamer."

Such is life. Of course, economists and everyone else in the energy biz are keeping their eyes on the current costs and projected trends of every kind of generation source: fossil, renewable, nuclear. And depending on how you do the math, folks of good intent can and will disagree.

A new report says that distributed solar is getting closer in many markets, even surpassing conventional generation in some. It's getting to be less about technology and subsidies, and more about pure lifecycle ROI.

GTM wrote about it yesterday, and here are a few excerpts I found interesting:
  • ... in cost terms, the homeowner’s choice is between a solar system and other options. “Before we hit the majority of the American public, which the DOE puts out only a few more years, we still need to push the economics down a little further
  • The shift to solar is not going to happen all at once ... two pockets of the country [will] open up to solar first. Solar will most quickly be noticed as competitive where electricity rates are high or where utilities have inordinate monthly charges
  • Where PV becomes economically viable ... will be when the banks get comfortable with it and it becomes something that you just put on your mortgage, a normal thing that everybody in the neighborhood is doing because they can save a little every month on their utility bill
The report may be optimistic. Its writers may have been wearing sandals when they wrote it. But I think it's becoming less and less of a stretch to call solar a viable alternative in some geographies.

It won't work everywhere, and it won't work for everyone. But I think that in many applications, if it's not a winner today, then it will be tomorrow. Andy Bochman

Photo credit: Clearly Ambiguous on Flickr.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting your Head on Straight re: DOD Energy Strategy and Planning in a Rapidly Changing World

In the earliest days of this blog one of my best sources for clarity was former International Energy Agency (IEA) senior analyst Sohbet Karbuz. This man knows more about the way global energy markets function, and more about the ways DOD participates in them, than perhaps anyone on the planet.

Well, I've come back to him recently to try and grok the significance of some of the reports you may have seen lately saying the US is about to become a net oil & gas exporter, and that large fossil energy firms are increasingly focusing their efforts on unconventional resources (e.g. fracking for nat gas, shale gasoline extraction) in North America and Australia.

Here's some clarity on the contents of a CNA's recently released report on US Energy Security. First of all, the report's authors seem to have gaps in their understanding of the way the global energy markets function. In particular, they ascribe imaginary powers to individual nations and orgs when they say things like:
We are held hostage to price fixing by a cartel that includes actors who would do our nation harm, and we are too often called upon to risk the lives of our sons and daughters to protect fragile oil supplies from this very cartel. 
and ...
OPEC can increase production and drive down gas prices, erasing market incentives for developing alternative fuels ... the price of gasoline at the pump can too easily be manipulated by suppliers.
This doesn't do much to bolster the credibility of those who wrote and reviewed the report. But the report also mixes misleading or mistaken statements like those above with others that are much more on target. Here's Karbuz's take:
None of those [above quoted] claims make any sense. I was thinking about writing a few paragraphs on how the world oil markets functions and how oil prices are set. But I see that a reasonably good answer to those wrong arguments comes again from the report itself: “oil is a global commodity, priced on the global market. No matter how much more we produce here in the U.S., we can’t control the price of oil.”
He's also got a lot to say on the reports recommendations, particularly on biofuels. 

There's much more to process, and by the time you've finished Karbuz's analysis (on his blog, HERE), you'll have a better feel for what's going on, and also better context in which to consider the implications for DOD of the continuously changing energy landscape.  Andy Bochman

Monday, November 28, 2011

Negawatts and Heroes: San Diego Enlists Veterans for Energy Fight.

Energy and climate have made many strange bedfellows. Environmentalists and Marines make common cause because each has a mission vitally impacted by the use of energy. Everyone debates the merits of their favorite renewable or alternative energy production means, but all agree on the importance of the Fifth Fuel. Along with coal, petroleum, and nuclear, renewable/alternative energy make up the four fuels we use most commonly. The fifth fuel is the cleanest, cheapest and most secure of all. It is the electron you do not use through energy conservation.

On Tuesday, 6 December 2011, I will be speaking as part of an all-day series of events coordinated by the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego, CA, including an evening panel on the USS Midway. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center “seeks to inspire lifelong learning by furthering the public understanding and enjoyment of science and technology”. The title of the program is “The Military Goes Green: Cutting Back on Fossil Fuel to Save Lives and Billions of Dollars”. It is co-sponsored by “EARTH: The Operators’ Manual”, an NSF-supported education and outreach project focusing on the twin topics of climate change and renewable energy. Check out the link to the website and if you are in SoCal, come by and participate.

In the process of preparing for this event, I was placed in contact with Laura Parsons of the California Center for Sustainable Energy, “a non-profit organization dedicated to creating change for a clean energy future,” a group I’ll be speaking that morning. One of their programs caught my attention and I wanted to share it with you. It is a pilot program funded by DOE “to test Community-Based Social Marketing strategies for encouraging people to do whole-house energy efficiency upgrades”. CCSE is preparing to enter the implementation phase of the program so they were looking for a target audience that would be aware of the implication of energy use, be disciplined enough to carry through with efficiency behavior and would be good representatives of the program. Guess who they picked? Veterans. The program is called the “San Diego Hero Alliance.”

According to Ms. Parsons, the program begins with a small commitment – asking veterans to pledge to do one energy efficient behavior – to bring them into this community of Energy Heroes. Once they self-identify as someone who cares about energy efficiency, the Alliance helps them to take progressive steps to learn more about their home’s energy performance, and ultimately, get a home energy upgrade. The Alliance will assist with tapping into an existing rebate program, to help overcome the cost barriers.

This is a practical and noble program. Using veterans as the stalking horses for focusing on energy efficiency brings continuity and credibility to the program. Helping veterans save on energy bills is principled and decent. One of the major impacts of efficiency programs is that they focus on air tightness standards for structures. With less air infiltration, cool stays cool and warm stays warm. Better still, pollen, moisture, dust and mold are reduced, creating a more health environment for children and other living things.

I wish them much success in this program. In areas where the cost for energy is high, such as Southern California, this makes sense for the utility and the consumer. This truly could be an Alliance of Heroes. Dan Nolan

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Conference Alert – Operational Energy Steals a March

On 23-25 January, the 2012 DoD Energy Conference season will kick off with the 9th Tactical Power Sources Summit at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria, VA. Goals of the conference are to understand acquisition requirements and technology advancement in mobile and solider power. They have an impressive list of speakers from government and academia. Didn’t see anyone from the ASD, OEPP on the list, but am sure they will attend. 23 Jan is the Alternative Energy Focus Day with seminars on latest technology for operational energy. Should be worth the effort! See you there. Dan Nolan

Energy Efficiency is New Dream Fuel


Not to be confused with the Luc Besson 90's sci fi flick, The Fifth  Element, the Fifth Fuel is neither film nor fuel. Nor is it fossil or renewable.

Rather, it's an abstract concept: it is the fuel (or other energy source) you didn't need to use because you were kicking butt on energy efficiency (EE), having converted your energy operations from a ravenous beast into a lean, mean, energy sipping machine.

If you've been working in the energy sector for longer than a few milliseconds, you'll recognize the name Daniel Yergin (more about him and his most recent book HERE). Also my colleague Dan mentioned this piece in a comment on his most recent post. Well, Yergin just penned a short piece showcasing the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner as a Fifth Fuel exemplar system.

This excerpt from the Yergin article really gets me:
The decision to go for efficiency in the Dreamliner was resulted from a democratic vote that resembled an Iowa presidential caucus. In the early stages of the design process, Boeing invited representatives of 59 airlines to Seattle to take part in an election. There were just two candidates: A new jet that would go 20 percent faster versus a new jet 20 percent more fuel efficient. All in favor of more speed were to walk to one side of the room; all in favor of 20 percent more fuel efficiency, to the other side. It was a rout -- 59 to zero in favor of efficiency.
You might also want to check out "Financing the Fifth Fuel" wherein you'll find references to Duke Energy's CEO, the Mckinsey consultancy, and the mighty Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) making the clear cut business case for, and outlining the steps towards the wider adoption of, the Fifth Fuel energy efficiency concept.

It concludes thusly:
I would expect that ... models ... for financing the fifth fuel will become more commonplace ... as the imperative for more aggressive pursuit of energy efficiency becomes stronger with each passing day. We should begin anticipating that eventually the biggest problem with these approaches will be answering the “too good to be true” perception. After all, who in their right mind would turn down the opportunity to save money instantly, without any cash outlay?
And I conclude with the following question: If the Fifth Fuel is EE, can you name the other four?

Dan and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving. Andy Bochman

Image credit: Boeing

Monday, November 21, 2011

Testing 1, 2, 3: DOD Facilities Energy Test Bed Project Winners for 2012 Announced

575 tried, 27 succeeded. That's less than a 5% acceptance rate ... tougher than getting into Harvard or MIT I think. But well worth the effort, if some of these energy, energy efficiency and energy security strategies pan out.

OSD has just announced its list of approved test bed pilot projects, each one targeting an aspect of facilities energy use improvement. Categories include objectives with terse titles like:
  • Installation of a Nanotechnology Membrane HVAC System
  • Model-Driven Energy Intelligence
  • Sodium-Metal-Halide Battery Energy Storage for DoD Installations
And then there are projects whose backers couldn't, or wouldn't, limit their verbosity:
  • Grid-Interactive Renewable Energy Generation System with DC-Link Battery Storage Integration Capable of Hybrid Microgrid Operation to Increase Energy Security on DoD Installations
Try turning that into an acronym! And finally, technologies that sound like they could double as weapons when not helping improve energy efficiency:
  • Kinetic Super-Resolution Long-Wave Infrared Thermography Diagnostic for Building Envelopes
Sounds a little like ARPA-E territory, doesn't it? Though these technologies are closer to being field-able than the world-changing, very high risk / very high reward projects ARPA-E goes after.

See below for links to more DOD energy test bed information and activities:
  • The full list and a few more details are HERE
  • Installations Energy Test Bed description, HERE, including contact info
  • DOD/EPA/DOE Energy Test Bed symposium coming up next week (11/29-12/1) in DC. Link HERE

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Environmental Entrepreneurs: Making Green by being Green

Last week, Andy and I swapped towns, with Andy headed to DC while I spoke at an event sponsored by Environmental Entrepreneurs in Boston. According to their website, “Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity”. The bottomline for E2 IS the bottomline. They seek to influence policy that promotes environmentally sound business practices, but is driven to demonstrate that these are not opposing views, but complementary. Sounds like dangerous "Greenies" to me.

In my presentations I talk about how I got started in the energy industry. In mid 2006, I was working with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and was asked to evaluate a Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement from a Marine General in the Anbar Province of Iraq. The General was asking for a hybrid electric power station. I wondered to myself, “When did the Marines become Birkenstock wearing, tree huggers?”. As it turned out, this was the JUON that accelerated the operational energy movement. It was from, then, Major General Zilmer, Commander USMC Forces, Iraq and it was because the most dangerous thing to do in his area of operation was to drive five gallons of diesel to the Syrian border outposts to run the radios and other electronics. It was a “business” decision. His most precious resources were endangered as a result of the need to power his outposts. That it might have a positive environmental impact was not even mentioned.

This is an example of how business decisions and environmental decision are complimentary and not in opposition. It is the same argument for building energy efficient buildings. The argument is invariable proffered that it is too expensive to build green. This is often heard in DOD circles were one group pays the capital cost and another pays for operations and maintenance. It may cost a nickel more to buy material that conserves energy, but the total life cycle cost usually makes it a no brainer. To quote FineHomebuliding.com ,” in what universe did it ever make sense to build a house that wasn’t energy efficient?”.

I sat down with Berl Hartman, the feisty Director of E2 New England. E2 is a virtual organization that prides itself on its independence (politically, economically, etc.). The organization was started in California by a couple of Silicon Valley folks (Bob Epstein and Nicole Lederer) and who figured out that it was possible to be environmentally responsible and economically viable. Pollution is an indicator of an inefficient system and that is bad for business. E2's mantra is making the polluter accountable for the pollution.

E2 serves as a business voice for the environment. When I joked about the Marines being Birkenstock wearing, tree huggers, I wasn’t joking. Any soldier who has ever had to report an oil spill of more than a pint in the motorpool knows what I mean. The military is the biggest bunch of Greenies going. They have to operate in a sustainable manner because they have to use that same training area over and over again. The commitment is manifested by the fact that each of the Services has its own agency such as the Army Environmental Command. DoD has figured out that sustainable operations make sense economically and for security. It is not about right or left, it is about right and wrong.

As the Services move forward with their various energy conservation, distribution and renewable projects, they have indicated that they will reach out to small businesses. For those big firms who will have to find responsible, capable small business partners, head to your local E2 meeting. I am not equating an E2 meeting to some kind of meat market, but….do you come here often? Dan Nolan

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ever Consider having your Installation Whispered?

We've all seen the numbers before. The short version is goes like this: DOD dwarfs Walmart when it comes to number of square feet of buildings owned, maintained, powered, heated and cooled in the USA and elsewhere.

The amount of energy consumed by the world's largest fleet of buildings is enormous, as is the amount of energy wasted due to inefficiencies of every conceivable kind.

Well, there are folks working this challenge, such as my colleague and friend, the mighty Dave Bartlett (pictured, imposingly, above). You care read a bit more about Dave and what he and folks like him do HERE.

As you can imagine, there are cultural as well as technical barriers to work through. Especially for DOD bases that have been able to achieve some good energy savings in recent years and feel like there are no more low hanging energy efficiency fruit to pick, I like this note re: one of IBM's own facilities:
The Rochester campus had recently undergone a comprehensive energy audit resulting in double-digit energy conservation. It seemed highly unlikely to the facilities operations professionals at the campus that anything more could be done. “They (facilities operations personnel) told me that they were already doing everything that could be done to save energy,” said Bartlett. “But we achieved a 3 percent energy reduction in the first few months, and within nine months we managed to get an eight percent reduction in energy use. The work is also estimated to reduce maintenance costs for the site by 5-10 percent,” he added, “and that is real gravy on top of the energy savings.”
If this is right, there are a ton of high ROI opportunities out there for the Services to go after. Makes me want to shout! aab

Photo Credit: Association for Facilities Engineering

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Motion for Better Utility Bill Content


Sorry if I confused you with School House Rock Bill, but he's a personal favorite, and I plug him whenever I can. And I'm not referring to one of the myriad energy bills coursing through ... or foundering on the rocks of the Hill these days.

No. Rather, with thanks to Mike Aimone, we've got this electric sector news for you.

This is low tech tech, easy-to-do stuff: the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has just put out a report saying that your bill, your monthly electric utility bill that is, could do much more than it probably does today.

In particular, the ACEEE contents that 3 key (and relatively easeee to implement) elements could do a lot to improve consumer usage patterns:
  • pro-efficiency messaging
  • educational tips and contacts
  • peer comparisons
On behalf of service members living on and off base, CONUS DOD installations could and I'd say should lobby their local utilities to make these updates. A longer summary page and the full report is available HERE. Andy Bochman

Image credit: Central Washington University

Monday, November 7, 2011

In Certain Scenarios, DOD Would be Better Fueled by Fuel Cells

DOD needn't wait to start benefitting from new fuel cell capabilities, and three use cases in particular are the most promising for existing commercial fuel cell tech, according to a report just out from LMI:
  1. Distributed power generation - as in for base load power, as well as heating and cooling needs, can  be provided by fuel cell systems. This gets you energy efficiency gains and reduced: operating costs, building energy intensity, and emissions
  2. Backup power - here the benefits are improved reliability, lower maintenance, longer life, lighter weight, and lower emissions
  3. Unmanned vehicles - aerial and otherwise. Improved capabilities like extended range, reduced maintenance, and more are are possible
Of course, all of these benefits add up to improved energy security: bases less dependent on their local grids and operational forces that can more readily power themselves without waiting for the next convoy to come over the pass.

It's not DOD's mission to develop or incubate new technologies.  Far from it. But arguably, by showing how young technologies can solve its specialized problems, it paves the way for broader applications, within and external to the military.

Click HERE to read the LMI report: Beyond Demonstration: The Role of Fuel Cells in DoD's Energy Strategy. Andy Bochman

Friday, November 4, 2011

AIETF Big Reveal is Big Deal: Don't Forget the Gators

Ok, this is a long one, so get another cup of coffee and get comfy.

Yesterday, on the banks of the Potomac, the Army fell in at the Navy Yard in D.C. to unveil their plan to expediting large, renewable projects energy projects in and around their post, camps and stations. Some 250 companies sent over 300 people (not each!) to hear the hopeful news. In the impressive Admiral Gooding Conference center, with video screen every seven inches, the Army did not disappoint.

The White House sent Nancy Sutely, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality threw out the first pitch with a few softballs about DoD energy use, President Obama’s Executive Order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance and Fort Irwin Soldiers deploying with foam tents (???). The fact that she was citing an EO issued over two years ago was a sad reflection on the fact that we lack a national energy policy. That the White House was there was impressive; their message was not.

Ms. Sutely was followed by Katherine Hammack, ASA, IE&E. Ms. Hammack had a multi-media presentation highlighting the progress the Army has made in Astro Turf ® and waterless urinals in the desert. While I poke fun, the video is worth seeing and will be available on line some where I am sure. The real point of her presentation was to introduce the team and the plan for the Army’s Energy Initiative Task Force. It kicked off with a video of the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable John McHugh announcing the EITF at GovEnergy in August. The first few seconds of that video lauds Ms. Hammack’s leadership and she was obviously uncomfortable with that, but then segued in to the announcement itself. In the announcement McHugh said the TF would be operational by 15 September and it was. Hammack then turned it over to Jon Powers, the fresh-faced Director of Outreach for the TF, who was MC’ing the affair and she Ms. Sutely and beat a hasty retreat. Always someplace else to be!

Next up was Richard Kidd, DASA, E&S. Mr. Kidd was sporting a walking cast acquired in a touch football injury administered by his seven year old son. As adorable as that is, if you don’t learn to stiff arm, bad things happen. DASA Kidd recognized the commitment of industry to this effort. By his calculation, given the number of folks in the room and typical Washington billing hours, industry plunked down about $180K in opportunity costs to be there that day. He also recognized that in order to attract the $7.1 billion in investment necessary to achieve the aggressive goal of 25% renewable energy consumption by 2025, the Army was going to have to behave differently.

In the good ole’ days, the Army issued an RFP, selected a vendor and paid for whatever commodity or services was required. For this effort, the Army must attract industry and entice them to invest in programs that will “Secure Army installations with energy that is clean, reliable and affordable”. This is the stated vision of the TF and it is telling. I know what word parsing goes on in “vision casting“ sessions, but word order matter. It would seem that energy security and mission accomplishment (reliability) is more important than affordability which clearly trumps clean. More to follow on this. Mr. Kidd then introduced John Lushetsky, the new Executive Director of the TF.

Mr. Lushetsky, a DOE alum like Kidd, brings impressive credentials to the job. With only three years’ experience in Federal government, he may be in for a bit of a shock facing the Army bureaucracy, but his much greater experience with industry and multiple business and engineering degrees he might be the right guy for the job. Lushetsky introduced the rest of his team: Kathy Ahsing, Planning; Al King, Execution and Jon Powers, Outreach (Strat Comms). They also have a detailed lawyer from the office of General Council to make sure they color inside the lines. The well-coiffed, Stan Lee (ok, a little jealous) from the Corps of Engineers rounds out the team. Why COE? Because that is where the plan comes in.

The TF plans to let an RFP in early 2012, fronted by the Huntsville office of the COE. In the Source Sought released in June the Corps said, “The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville (CEHNC), Alabama intends to solicit and award multiple, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contracts for use in competing and awarding Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) task orders”. The RFP will be for a Multiple Award Task Order Contracting (MATOC) for power purchase agreements supported by enhanced use leases. The goal is to award that contract by early 2013 and then go after twenty three, currently identified projects almost nationwide. The southeastern United States is notably absent in the gang of 23, with only Fort Bragg as the token representative. You wonder if that is a function of local utility requirements or no good ideas. The utilities will play an enormous role in this effort.

The indication that the Army gets this is a new game and that they must now attract investment vice pay the bills was the announcement of the intent to lift some of the burden of NEPA. The National Environmental Policy Act makes federal agencies integrate environmental impacts into their decision about proposed actions. The Environmental Impact Statement is a painful, but responsible process. If you build outside the gate, the State may not require the EIS; the Federal government does. The EITF proposes to use the Army Environmental Command to conduct do the EIS, relieve industry of this time and cost burden. Good luck, Colonel Kimmell. His boss, MG Al Aycock was in attendance, but did not speak. Clearly, IMCOM is on board. That is a big deal.

One of the tidbits tossed out was that the Army intends to keep some of the RECs. This will allow the Army to take credit, literally, for consuming RE, but could affect the ability to get financing. We will wait and see the impact of this.

The finale was a marathon question and answer session. One of the things the TF has figured out is that communications will be the key to success. After engaging about forty minutes of questioning from the throng, Power announced that the TF will soon have a link on their site to allow industry to set up appointments to visit the team and share ideas. As painful and tedious as this might be for the folks tasked to take these meetings, no one can complain about not having access. This is right out of the Information Operations handbook. I wonder what Redleg came up with the idea?

So now we will be able to access ESPCs and UESC for energy conservation (and some RE), the MATOC for large (10MW or greater) for renewable energy. RFP in early 12, award in early 13, then off to the races. So where is the gap?

The gap is in true energy security provided by smart grid technology. Conserving energy is hugely important; that is always the first step. RE is laudable, achievable and a terrific goal. That being said, unless there is a capacity to store intermittent energy, to decouple load from source and to provide the physical/cyber security necessary in a local distribution system, you do not have energy security. If the local utility can switch off the power generation, there is no energy security. When asked about this, Mr. Kidd indicated that it was not part of the EITF charter. I respectfully suggest they rethink that charter.

It will be difficult, but not impossible, to get third party financing for secure distribution systems alone. The choices are to incorporate them into these large RE projects or get funding to install them separately. The meager ECIP budget (about $135M in FY2012 Budget) can put a dent in the need, but cannot begin to address energy security. It is important to remember that EITF is there to drain the swamp (energy security), something a Gator like Mr. Lushetsky should understand. More to follow as it develops. Great start, Army!

Also want to welcome Andy back. His technical expertise and balance approach will be a welcome counter point to my ravings. Glad to be collaborating again! Dan Nolan

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Return of The Thing That Wouldn't Leave

There's an old SNL skit in which a character played by John Belushi (RIP) is spending a pleasant evening in the modest home of Bill Murray and Jane Curtin. As the evening winds down, though, the Belushi guy doesn't know when it's time to leave and keeps rummaging through the couple's apartment in search of more and more snacks and beverages, even while Jane Curtin's character starts doing big-time Hitchcockian screams.

That skit, called "The Thing that Wouldn't Leave" reminds me of me and the DOD Energy Blog (we call it DEB for short). After starting another blog and running it for nearly 3 years, I'm returning to work on what any right-minded person who's come here over the last year would consider The House that Nolan Built.

Well, Dan and I have talked, and he's going to continue to deliver his incredible analysis and insight about how DOD's myriad energy initiatives are and are not working. Some might call him pushy, but I like to think of him as persistent, and depending on where you sit, I bet you're glad he is the way he is. Pretty darn funny too, for an Army guy.

My new role, which hopefully will leave you more often informed and enlightened versus screaming in disbelief, will be to focus on the emerging technologies that may help DOD get where it needs to go.

Along these lines you'll see my first posts on fuel cells and smarter buildings. Renewable energy and energy efficiency aren't new concepts any more ... the novelty has worn off.  Now it's time to drill down and get pragmatic (vs. idealistic) on what solutions provide the biggest energy security bangs for our increasingly limited bucks.

Hope you enjoy the new format ... I have a feeling it's going to quite nutritious. And say, do you know if there are any Fritos left?  Andy Bochman

Photo credit: SNL Archives


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Center Stage for Big Power: AEITF Summit

Quick reminder for all DOD Energy Fans that the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force Summit is tomorrow, 3 November 2011 from 0900-1300 at the Admiral Gooding Center, Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.. We will hear from the White House and Army Energy folks on the way ahead for large, 3rd party financed, renewable energy projects to help the Army meet its goal. They are looking for some $7.1 Billion in investment over the next 10 years, so bring your checkbooks!

If you are unable to attend due to location or turnout, please send me your questions. I am looking forward to the discussion on thorny issues such as Army's authority for long term Power Purchase Agreements and how to get around utility rules for offering PPAs on a periodic basis that might not match with the contracting cycle. Should be interesting.

On another note, I have heard from several of you on the Chinese water bottle issue. I am fully aware that vendors at the Pentagon are not required to follow the strictures of the Buy American Act. I was having a bit of ironic fun with the Scouting community. I apologize for anyone who does not get my sense of humor. Keep those cards and letters coming! Dan Nolan

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bye America: What Do We Tell the Scouts??


When I am not musing on DOD energy policy, programs and machinations, I try to run a business advising commercial entities on what that market looks like and what it is likely to do.

With many of the manufacturing and technology companies, I am asked about the Buy American Act. As in everything DOD, it is intricate, convoluted and understanding it will make your head hurt. I could explain it here, but somethings come with a price tag.

That being said, I couldn't resist the photo shown above, sent in by an alert Scout. Literally. The most American of groups (the Scouts) visited the most American of buildings (the Pentagon) and bought a memento of their visit. That it was a tool for conserving resources (water bottle) was secondary to having something from the Most Admired Institution (the Military).

If only it could have been made in Canton, Ohio instead of Guangdong, China.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reducing the Obstacles to DOD Energy Goals

My handsome younger brother, Jon Gensler, combat veteran, former tank and mortar platoon leader, and current energy entrepreneur weighs in on speed in energy goal attainment by DOD. Given Solyndra and recent DOD IG reports to the contrary, Gensler argues that speed in government energy efforts are necessary for the country. Project velocity ( the speed at which you can push, pull, or coerce a large scale project through contracting, design, negotiations, procurement and the various other hurdles that underpin any large scale opportunity) can be accelerated through breeching or by passing the obstacles presented by site procurement interpretation, decision maker inertia, Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) complexity.

For a guy with a meager education, (USMA, MIT, Harvard) he makes good points. Recommended reading for anyone in the industry AND Government. Especially Government. The Army is attempting to address these with the EITF which is sponsoring a three hour meeting next week in DC. This will be an opportunity to ask new TF Executive Director, John Lushetsky, former DAS Energy Efficiency and Solar Program Manager at DOE, questions based on Gensler’s article.

One of my scouts was attending FUPWG this week in Philly. Early reports indicate that there is still some disagreement on long term PPAs among the Services. Would be useful to have a definitive statement from Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Installations & Environment on the issue. Please sort out U.S. Code 2922A, Madam Secretary, and I won’t ask for anything else for Christmas. Promise. Dan Nolan

Monday, October 24, 2011

Haste Makes Wasteful RE Projects: DOD IG Grades ARRA Spending

On Feb. 17 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. President Obama signed it into law four days later. As part of the stimulus package DOD received funds to support various renewable energy projects. Because of the nature of the funding, many renewable energy projects classified as Military Construction (greater than $750K), got funded very fast. As any one familiar with MilCon will tell you, this is normally a laborious and much scrutinized process. Years are spent in planning and preparation before a project is "shovel ready". But what happens if you don’t do that? Some predictable bad things.

Annie Snider has an excellent piece on a series of DOD IG reports addressing $117M received by AF and DON. (This article is outside the usual paywall; the really good stuff is on the other side.) Turns out if you want it bad, you get it bad. Windmills without wind, in front of radar; ROI rules that were unwritten and many senior positions in DOD vacant when decisions were required. If that weren’t enough of a recipe for less than sterling outcomes, compressed timelines forced decisions to be made before their time.

It is a shame that every dollar of the $335.7M earmarked for RE didn’t work 10% better than the proposal required and that the return on investment wasn’t 40% with a nine month payback. Damn shame. But what must be remembered was what ARRA was supposed to do. It was supposed get people working and money into the economy. Regardless of your opinion of the act, it did those things. What DOD got out of it was lessons learned. The DOD board that now clears RE projects to ensure that they do not detract from the mission and the Army’s Energy Initiative Task Force are examples of those lessons. Let’s hope they can reduce the errors in future projects.

What should bother us about the article is the lack of response from OSD in addressing the issue, specifically Dr. Robyn's office. I checked with Ms. Snider. She queried them, but they had no comment for record. If DOD has learned anything from previously bad events, it is to address it up front. When this stuff comes out, get it out. Tell us what you know, what you don’t know and what you are doing about what you don’t know. DON's Tom Hicks is always accessible and we appreciate his candor. The rest of the folks could take a cue. Why should OSD do this? If the Army wants $7.1B in private investment, they (and the rest of DOD) need to engender trust. Transparency goes a long way to doing just that. Other wise the press has only old retire guys with whom to talk. Dan Nolan

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's Always Sunny in D.C.: Reflections on Tough Duty in DOD Energy

Just returned from a Military Smart MicroGrid Conference in D.C. that once and for all settled on the fifteen acceptable definitions for a smart microgid. What a relief that is! In essence, a smart microgrid is smaller than a minigrid and bigger than a nanogird (right, Dr. Cross?). It can accept any kind of power (DC, AC, Super), store it, and dispatch it instantaneously, independent of the commercial grid, while being omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent. With briefings from every branch of the Federal Government, except the Post Office, the discussions were far ranging, sometimes frustrating but always educational.

The current major player on the block for DOD is, of course, SPIDERS, one of fortyeleven MG projects ongoing for the Department. The project manager (technical), Harold Sanborn attended, but did not speak. Since he is standing by to accept a deluge of proposals for Phase 1 he had to attend the conference wearing a gag as stipulated by FAR 100X02.z24.$$. But I could still see him smiling behind the gag.

I have been critical of many of the Department’s efforts in energy purely because it has just not been fast enough to satisfy me. I reflected on this after I went up to speak with ASD, OEPP Sharon Burke following her excellent presentation and she asked me if I was going to punch her. It kinda hurt my heart. So I would like to write a love note to all the DOD energy bubbas and bubbettes I have abused this past year.

To all of you who have taken on the thankless job of attempting to transform the most intransigent and prolific energy user in the nation: Thank You. What you do on a daily basis has the potential for transforming the Nation and resolving one of the four great challenges Tom Friedman and Micheal Mandelbaum enumerated in their excellent book, “That Use to be Us”. If you haven’t read it, get it, read it and then we will discuss.

DOD is the ultimate camel maker. We asked for a horse, they went into committee and we got a camel. If we were asking for a speedy steed that could win the Derby, we are disappointed. But if we wanted a beast of burden that could carry a heavy load with great efficiency, we are happy. As we watch the various products come out of OSD and the Joint world, we (I) have to accept that it will always be product of compromise. Whether it is a strategy or a less than optimal RFP, it is what can make it out of committee. Compared with what is coming out of the Legislature these days, the OSD energy crews are craftsmen.

Now don’t worry. This does not mean I will not return to being my crotchety old self. Andy Rooney retired, I did not. I am still going to call them the way I see them. If it is a low velocity marshmallow, I will say so. Just wanted our government readers to know that I do appreciate how hard the work is and how, sometime, you have to make it look like someone else’s idea. Thanks, Harold for always having a smile on your face and thanks, Ms Burke, for the herculean task that you take on daily without ever letting them see you sweat. The picture above is her visiting troops in Bagram. When she talk about visiting our wounded heroes at Landstuhl, you can hear the passion for what she does in her voice.

OK, everyone back on your heads! IDGA 3rd Annual Alternative Energy for Defense next week in DC. Be there! Dan Nolan

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anxious, but Doubling Down: Industry Reacts to Uncertainty in Defense

This past week, the Association of the United States Army gathered in Washington, D.C. for their annual meeting and exposition with the theme: “The Strength of the Nation”. Every star and luminary of the Army attended as did every major defense contractor, innovative technologist and U.S. Government office with a need to see and be seen. From tiny Power Breezer off in a far corner to the giants like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, the show filled all of the massive Washington Convention Center. In a time when one would have thought that the industry would be conserving resources, they appear to be doubling down. I was interested to see how energy would be reflected in products on display so I hit the floor and started asking question.

One of the areas I asked about was the impact of the energy on acquisition decisions. The requirement to use the fully burdened cost of energy in the Analysis of Alternatives process and to consider energy as a Key Performance Parameter have been in place for some time, but to what affect? I spoke with folks from corporations with interest in the ongoing Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Program, one of the pilot technologies for evaluating the efficacy of FBCE. When I asked how energy efficiency had impacted their considerations in developing their prototype, the vendor said it was a major consideration, but at this time it was kind of like asking if you preferred the portholes opened or closed on the Titanic.

According to a Congressional Research Service report on the JLTV, “once testing was to be completed and technology requirements established, a full and open competition was expected to be conducted in the late summer, 2011 for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase and the Department of Defense (DOD) planned to award two contracts for the EMD phase, which was scheduled to last 24 months”. However, in February 2011, the Army announced that the award of the EMD contract would be delayed until January 2012 because the Army changed requirements for the JLTV. The change in this program, at a time when programs across DOD were being cut or eliminated, sent shockwaves through the industry. Another blow to industry confidence came with the establishment of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction as a provision of the Budget Control Act.

If the Select Committee legislative process fails to result in a law, that will trigger $1.2 Trillion across-the-board spending cuts in discretionary spending, Medicare, farm subsidies, and a few smaller entitlements. It is anticipated that DOD would take about half of these cuts. Recent speeches by the C, JCS, the CSA and other DOD senior leadership have been to remind Congress of the history of drastically reducing defense at the end of conflicts. I heard this theme echoed from industry across the board. Nobody was sweating, but nobody was particularly ebullient.

Even the Army Energy panel echoed these topics. Capo di tutti Capo for Army energy Katherine Hammack assembled an impressive collection of uniformed leadership. Her battle buddy, LTG Rick Lynch was not in attendance, but Installation Management Command was ably represented by Deputy CG, MG Al Aycock. For the first time, the Army Staff and Operational Units were represented by the soon to be G4, MG(P) Ray Mason and current 1st Armored Division Commanding General, MG Dana Pittard. In another first, the Acquisition Community was well represented by the exceedingly handsome MG Nick Justice, Commanding General of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (pictured above). Each speaker focused on their roles in providing for the three elements of energy concern: Basing, Soldiers and Vehicles. I took copious notes, only to find that they had already posted ALL the slides. They are here for your perusal. Worth taking the time to read.

In general, what we heard was that the Army would invest in energy efforts that had immediate, tactical impacts, but when it came to large, scale renewable energy what the Army wants to hear is, “I got the money, honey, if you got the……land”. The theme of third party finance resonated through every discussion of installation energy security. In another cost savings measure, the Army Energy Initiatives Office Task Force became the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force and announced an Army Energy Initiatives Task Force Summit for four hours on 3 November 2011. Registration is open until 21 October 2011, but when I attempted to register, the website informed me that they were at capacity and that I would be placed on a waiting list. I would have supposed that if I were hoping to do outreach, I would have it in a facility that could accommodate the potential crowd. Perhaps a web link so we can participate? We have the demand; are they out of land? Dan Nolan

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Your Ship is Sailing: Navy Energy Forum 2011 Underway

We mentioned it earlier, but in case you missed it, and find yourself in DC with some unexpected holes in your schedule, the Naval Energy Forum is happening today and tomorrow (10/13/2011 to 10/14/2011) at the Reagan Building in DC.

The agenda includes:
  • Remarks by Secretary of the Navy: New Energy Future 
  • Remarks by Chief of Naval Operations 
  • Affecting Culture Change: How to Create Spartan Energy Warriors 
  • Retooling Our Fleet: Successes and Challenges 
  • Combat Enablers: It’s About the Warfighter 
  • Strategic Outlook 
  • C5I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Collaboration, and Intelligence) Considerations 
  • Energy Efficient Acquisition 
  • Game Changing Solutions 
Click HERE for more info.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

From Position Improvement to Energy Security: The Road to the Smart Microgrid


For those who have been tracking the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERSJoint Concept Technology Demonstration (JCTD) it has been an interesting trajectory. It started out as a very ambitious smart microgrid (or Energy Surety Microgrid as Sandia Labs, the designer, calls it) project, envisioning two simultaneous demonstrations of the technology at Hickman AFB, Hawaii and Fort Carson, Colorado. The original solicitation came out on 10 August 2011, for a firm, fixed price, best value contract for both locations, with site visits on 25 August at both locations, simultaneously. On 30 August 2011, amendment 5 to the solicitation was issued deleting the Fort Carson portion of the project. Presumably, that will be addressed in a later solicitation.

This project, in two phases, is estimated to cost $5.2M with a small business goal of 50% of the overall project cost and a period of performance of eighteen months. Although this seems like a lot of work for a big firm with only $2.6M in the return, this will be about getting there “firstest with the mostest”. The company that wins this will have a leg up on what is expected to be a $5B market.

DOD has some specified tasks it must accomplish. We have listed them before: buy biofuels, reduce energy consumption, and consume more renewable energy. In the case of installation energy, there are a number of implied tasks:

  • Develop systems that will provide the military effective countermeasures to asymmetric vulnerabilities associated with fragile grid conditions and escalating costs while building in mission assurance and energy security for installations 
  • Provide improved solutions to energy security and clean energy requirements, enable opportunity pricing and offer cooperative environments where utilities may better service military installation needs. 
  • Communications and controls that allow synchronization and load optimization
This is why DOD is, and should be, chasing the smart microgrid. In the words of one DOD senior manager, “Putting DoD as an early adopter of distributed energy management systems enables the military to help shape the standards for energy security, build business case metrics, and facilitates the adoption of alternative and renewable energy generation sources needed to better meet NetZero goals”.

In addition to the R&D effort associated with this JCTD, there are folks putting smart grids on the ground today, and in some pretty tough environments. Project Manager-Mobile Electric Power (PM-MEP) is running the Afghan Microgrid Project or AMP in Camp Sabalu-Harrison. They are receiving forward engineering support from the Research, Development and Engineering Command's Field Assistance in Science and Technology – Center, part of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade.

The team put in a one-megawatt microgrid that can replace up to 20 60-kilowatt TQGs. These Tactical Quiet Generators had been producing more than 1,300 kilowatts of power to meet a demand of less than 400 kilowatts. The situation is not atypical of spot generation in theater and, if this works, could serve as a blueprint for future operations.

Even as these R&D efforts move forward there are efforts to just be smarter in how the Services deploy energy. When units first hit the ground, every facility has its own generator. Over time, the simple process of position improvement dictates that this inefficient method be replace with some sort of mini grid. This is now being done in a significant enough effort to warrant the scrutiny of the NYT. In an article last week, Annie Snider highlighted the efforts of COL Tim Hill and the Army’s operational energy program. The system is basically just “ganging” generators together for greater efficiency, but that is a start.

At last week’s 2011 Washington Energy Summit, Dr. Dorothy Robynthe Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment said, “(The) microgrid is a triple play. It's a set of self-generated electricity and controls that allow us to operate more efficiently ... in a normal mode but [also to] facilitate the incorporation of solar, wind (and) other forms of renewable energy. And most important, if the grid goes down it will allow us to prioritize and continue to operate activities that are most critical".

It looks like the lessons from the frontline are making it back to the home front. The AMP does not appear to have integrated renewables or storage as part of its construct. Putting those into the mix would seem to be the next logical step in demonstrating the importance of the smart microgrid. From dumb, ganged minigrids to smart microgrids that provide true energy security requires government investment. Third party financing for these efforts will be challenging; tough to make the business case. The technology is mature and the results are a saving in dollars and lives in convoys and ensuring mission accomplishment at installations. Without intelligent power management, renewables are just tinkering at the margins of energy security. Dan Nolan

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weathering the Storm: Impact of Space Weather

Everyone talks about the weather, but NDU is doing something about it. Not terrestrial weather, but storms in space. Dr. Rich Andres brought this to my attention. This Wednesday, 5 October, the Energy & Environmental Security Policy Program and the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at National Defense University (NDU), in conjunction with US Congressional EMP Caucus, and InfraGard National Members Alliance (INMA) will gather to discuss recent war games on the impact of space weather on the electric grid.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, these good folks will talk about “how to better prepare for widespread and long term power outages as outlined in a number of studies from the National Academies of Science, the US Congressional EMP Commission, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC), and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)”. We know what happens when a tree limb falls in Ohio or STUXNET gets into the firmware. Now we have to worry about what happens when the solar wind blows. As a former nuclear targeteer, I have studied the effects of massive electromagnetic pulses on electronics. We don’t get thrown back to the 19th Century….more like the 16th. That those effects could be created by solar activity is indeed frightening.

Registration is required so go here to sign up. If anyone attends, please send in a report. Dan Nolan

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Energy is Local: Think Main Street, not K Street


Over the past couple of months I have had the opportunity to address a number of different audiences on the topic of energy security and DOD’s efforts to secure their mission critical requirements. Many of these have been sponsored by academic or industry groups who do not engage with the Government on a regular basis. None of these events were held within the Beltway. I always make sure that the audiences know that I do not and cannot speak on behalf of the Government, only as an observer. On at least two occasions I have passed invitations to the Government in hopes of an official spokesman, but have not been able to bring that about. I have made two observations from these events.
First, in some cases, the general population has little understanding of the challenges DOD faces in regard to energy security and, therefore, has no idea that DOD is taking aggressive steps to remedy the situation. They are surprised to learn that DOD is the largest energy user in the country. When I explain that DOD is three million people, 2.2 billion square feet of building space and has a utility bill of $3.9 billion, you can see the lights coming on. When I further explain that the mandates of EPACT 2005, EISA 2007, NDAA 2007 and EO 13423/13524 require DOD to reduce energy use and increase renewable/alternative energy consumption they light up with hope. “Hey, if DOD is on it, we can rest assured that our energy dilemma can be solved!”.
The second observation is that for those who are somewhat informed, their working assumption is that DOD is going to spend a lot of money to secure its energy requirements. When they hear that the Army is seeking $7.1 billion in investment for renewable energy at installations, they want to know who to call. I am asked, invariably, whether or not the Department is willing to pay any kind of a premium for energy security and I inform them that, from all indications, DOD can only pay the market rate for a kilowatt-hour or a gallon of fuel. Even with that bit of deflating news, academia and industry are heartened to hear what is going on.
The lessons here are pretty straight forward. Like politics, in DOD all energy projects will be local. Washington can write the policy, shape the discussion and hold conferences, but it will be Fort Homefront that will write the RFP, coordinate with the utility and deal with myriad local issues that must be resolved in order to get a construction job done. The Army’s Energy Initiative Office (Task Force?) is a great idea. It will serve as a one stop clearing house for legal questions, financing advice and resolution of policy issues, but Commander Righthere will make the decision at his/her base. Washington can expedite; Homefront will decide.
I would like to see DOD engaging groups outside the Beltway by providing TDY funds for local commanders and/or DPWs to attend and address local gatherings and energy forums. Those folks would be much better spokesmen than yours truly and they would be able to speak with conviction. At the last conference I attended in Raleigh Durham, someone from Fort Bragg happened to be attending and when encourage to address the audience, spoke with eloquence and authority. His message was well received.
This October there will be at least three DOD related energy conferences occurring in DC. They will be expensive to attend and will have all the usual suspects and PowerPoint. I would encourage the DOD energy leadership to start sending folks from local installations to local energy conferences. There are no finer ambassadors for the energy efforts than the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and their civilian counterparts who are working the issues every day. If the purpose of the conferences is to share information and understanding, get out to the hinterland and let Mom and Pop’s Solar Panel Company know what the opportunities are and how to access them. Big Defense Industries already know what to do. Let’s leave K Street behind and go check out Main Street. Dan Nolan
Don't forget to attend:
Yes, I get the irony............

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2011 Energy Security Book List

There are two new books out in the last few months I want you to know about. Whether you have time to read them, even if I am successful in getting you worked up about them, well, that's another story. So again, it's only two books, which is probably one or two more than you'll be able to get to given your current workload. But here's why you should give them a shot.

The first one is by former Austin Energy CIO Andres Carvallo, called The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability. Co-authored with frequent technology writer John Cooper, this book is relatively short at ~200 well illustrated pages, and is a pleasure to read. I'm going to re-use some of the laudatory words I recently posted in an Amazon review.

Before they invite you to travel with them into the future, Carvallo and Cooper do a solid job of orienting the reader with concise summaries of where the grid came from, how it's evolved over time, and as accurately as possible, how it's doing in its current state. For the many immigrants who've recently moved to energy from other sectors (like me), this is a great grounding.

The authors then look past the current climate of activity, much of it initially fueled with government grants, to a phase where business drivers alone dictate what gets deployed next. Ultimately, they begin to unveil for us a blurry but emerging vision of "the advanced Smart Grid", that's predicated on pervasive IP networking, tons and tons of data, microgrids, EVs, virtual power plants, new business models and more. For me, it was well worth the time, and depending on your background and/or day job, it might be for you too.

Book number two is from one of the (if not, THE) true giants of global energy thinking over the past decades, Daniel Yergin. Best known (to me, anyway) for his biblical telling of the history and future of the oil industry in The Prize, his new book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, expands in scope to consider all energy sources. Recently reviewed in the NYT, this excerpt seems apropos:

When it comes to assessing the world’s energy future Mr. Yergin is a Churchillian. He argues that we should consider all possible energy sources, the way Winston Churchill considered oil when he spoke to the British Parliament  in 1913. “On no one quality, on no one process, on no one country, on no one route, and on no one field must we be dependent,” Churchill said. “Safety and security in oil lie in variety and variety alone.”
... and one more thing, for which the a smarter grid is the essential precursor:
One of Mr. Yergin’s closing arguments focuses on the importance of thinking seriously about one energy source that “has the potential to have the biggest impact of all.” That source is efficiency. It’s a simple idea, he points out, but one that is oddly “the hardest to wrap one’s mind around.” More efficient buildings, cars, airplanes, computers and other products have the potential to change our world.
Sounds great, right? Well, the bad news for you travelers is that, from a weight perspective, is that it tops 800 pages, though if you get the ebook version it's as light as can be. Now reading it, or the majority of it, that's another story. If it's too much for you to consider, maybe you can wait and hope for a movie version. But I wouldn't count on it.

Happy reading!

Photo credit: Miamism on Flickr.com
(Cross-posted from the Smart Grid Security Blog)