Interesting article in the Environmental Entrepreneurs “E2 Update” by David Willson. Mr Willson attended the 26 April 2011 White House Forum on Energy and heard DepSecDef Bill Lynn and DepSecEn Daniel Poneman speak. He was moved to write his article after hearing the tales of woe that the military was telling, yet again. It is the same tale that has been told since August 2006 when Major General Zilmer, USMC asked for a hybrid electric power station. Mr. Willson, who has a twenty five year history in the energy field, presents some simple (and possibly simplistic) solutions to the challenges of battlefield energy.
His holistic approach starts with energy efficiency. Geothermal heat pumps are one solution to inefficient generators and HVAC units. Close looped systems exchange heat between the atmosphere and cool temperatures thirty feet below the surface (more here). Small wind turbines provide the pumping power. Simple solutions for complex problems.
Mr. Willson also recommends swamp coolers as an old and proven technology. The water intensity of evaporative cooling may be a bit much for desert climes, but worth a look. He also advocates for thermally efficient buildings such as the Afghans have been building for centuries. On that point he aligns with COL (RET) T.C. Moore, USMC of leader of the Marine Energy Assessment Team. Can’t wait to see those showing up in the Sand Book.
Power production gets only a short mention. He is an advocate for combine heat and power applications. According to the Federal Energy Management Program, CHP “offers extraordinary benefits in terms of energy efficiencies and emissions reductions by optimizing the use of heat that would otherwise be wasted when generating power. CHP systems can improve power quality, reliability, and overall energy security”. These systems can be retrofitted to any system that produces heat as a byproduct. What’s not to love?
The bottom-line is that Mr. Willson’s suggestions are common sense, simple and have all been proffered before. Why have they not been adopted? Most often, we hear that U.S. Forces do not want to appear as permanent and such improvements give that impression. More directly, it may be because no one has changed the specifications that the various Contracting Commands use in writing the contracts for Logistics Civil Augmentation Program and for the contracts in support of CONUS installations.
The philosophical principal of Occam’s Razor is that we should tend toward the simpler theories in the absence of sufficient facts to support a more complex answer. In all the DOD energy conferences I have attended, I have never heard someone from any of the Contracting Commands speak about how energy efficiency is being considered in the products or services for which the government contracts. That does not mean it is not being done; it just says that I have not observed it. It will feature in the questions asked at this week’s Army/Air Force Energy Forum. Remember, if you cannot attend, send me your questions and I will respond; better still, post them in the comments section. Look forward to seeing many of you on Tuesday and Wednesday. Dan Nolan