Monday, February 28, 2011

Net Zero Everything and Chinese Discipline: Army Charts Course for Installation Future

In an interview with bloggers last October, Katherine Hammack, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Environment and Energy announced that the Army would be taking a holistic approach to the concept of Net Zero. It was recognition that one can’t consider energy without considering the other two key commodities that impact it: water and waste. The Army has now published its vision for Net Zero, "Everything" in a new document. They have defined Net Zero as a force multiplier. They have also asked installations to nominate themselves for the program which will select five winners in April. Installations will have to fill out forms and write essays that show how they can be NZ Energy (produces as much as they use over a year), NZ Water (limit the consumption of freshwater resources and return water back to the same watershed so (as) not to deplete the groundwater and surface water resources of that region in quantity and quality over the course of a year) and NZ Waste (zero landfill). The NZ energy and waste are clearly measureable, but the water goal seems a bit obscure.

If an installation is selected, there is no guarantee of additional funds, but Ms. Hammack has stated she will, “leverage available resources and expertise to provide initial training and technical support throughout the pilot process”. Further, the vision states that the intent is to leverage private sector investment using “power purchase agreements (PPA), enhanced-use leases (EUL), energy savings performance contracts (ESPC), and utilities energy service contracts (UESCs) as tools to achieve these objectives”.

Right now there are seven Army installations in the running for the trifecta of Net Zero. Hammack will announce the winners at the Installation Management Command's Garrison Commanders Conference in San Antonio, Tx on 19 April 2011. This is a bold, audacious goal. But it needs a champion. Enter Chairman Lynch.

In Hot, Flat and Crowded, Tom Friedman has a chapter entitled “China for a day”. He muses on the ability of China to direct a massive infrastructure to become more energy efficient and use more alternative energy. It is what gives China the competitive advantage, the ability to operate within the decision cycle of her opponents. We do not have that same advantage in a free society. But we do have DOD. LTG Rich Lynch, Commander of the Army’s Installation Management Command (call sign: Defender 6) has embraced the Net Zero vision. He lays out the steps to reaching NZ through reduction, repurposing, recycling and composting, energy recovery and disposal. IMCOM has the potential to provide the leadership necessary to achieve this goal. IMCOM can be China.

What are really required are the public/private partnerships necessary to make this happen. The Army and industry, at all levels, must recognize what has to be done to make these partnerships work. Both sides need to realize that the partnership must be mutually beneficial. This means reasonable cost for enhance use leases and reasonable margins for ESPCs and UESCs. And DOD must engage the utilities or no PPA will ever be economical. As these instruments are applied to the NZ Water and Waste commodities, the same requirements obtain.

The Army is setting the vision, but industry must carry the load. We look forward to the announcement of the 5 winners (?) this year and for the twenty five to come. The lessons from these efforts will inform what every city, town and village in the nation must do to truly gain energy security.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bank Robbers and Energy Efficiency: “Where the Money is”

Legend has it that Willie Sutton, the infamous bank robber, was once asked, “Why do you rob banks?”. His reply? “Because that’s where the money is!” The USAF recognizes that in energy, the money is in aviation fuel. In 2010 they spent $6.7 billion on mobility fuel verses $1.4 billion on installations. Last week, all Air Force commands assembled at Scott AFB for the 1st Aviation Operations Energy Steering Group summit. The Air Mobility Command’s Fuel Efficiency Office (FEO) hosted the meeting to discuss the way ahead in, I assume, fuel efficiency. The FEO reported that $83 million in fuel costs have been saved since 2008. Assuming that number is for a three year period, that is about $27.67 million a year. So for 2010, efficiency saved about .41% of mobility fuel costs. But this does not tell you what the reduction in actual fuel has been. We need to focus on meaningful metrics.

The FEO is facilitating a couple of interesting technologies such as web based Fuel Tracking and looking at improved engines for old air frames. Another initiative is the Next Generation Cargo Capability which focuses on moving more cargo with the same number of airplanes. That the USAF has designated an office specifically to examine efficiency shows a keen understanding of “where the money is”. The cleanest, cheapest, most secure BTU is the one you don’t use. In the austere budget realm in which DOD finds itself, energy efficiency is the key to the kingdom.

The challenge for the FEO here is that the Air Force has established a goal of 10% reduction in consumption of aviation fuel from a 2006 baseline by 2015. According to the AMC PAO, AMC consumed 675 million gallons of jet fuel at a cost of $1.5 billion (@ $2.27/gal) in 2006. Volatility in fuel prices means that measuring savings in dollars have little meaning as it relates to Air Force goals. Even if the average price per gallon in 2010 was $4.00/gallon (high SWAG), then the AF saved about 6.9 million gallons. As long as AMC is saving 6.57 million gallons a year since 2006 and continues at that rate until 2015, they should make their goal handily. I will be attending USAF sponsored 5th Annual Alternative Energy NOW conference in Orlando 23-24 February. I will ask how it is going.

Note: this is the first post in which we've enabled reader comments. You may also notice that older posts now can be commented on as well. Enjoy!

Picture courtesy of

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Good Things in Small Packages:Small Reactors for Military Power

I started out my military career working with nukes, the kind that made large, smoking holes. My attention now turns to the more productive side of atomic power, namely, power. In a new paper from the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, Richard B. Andres and Hanna L. Breetz make the argument for micropower for military installations, foreign and domestic, using small (less than 300 megawatt) nuclear reactors.
The authors argue that installations are vulnerable because they are grid tied (domestic) or require convoys of fuel to power them (foreign). They also point out that DOD has the most experience in this space (see USS Nautilius) and that the financial burden could be borne in the name of National Security.

They conclude that DOD should lead the charge for small reactors to meet their own needs as well as to make sure that the US leads that industry’s development. When first written the paper mentioned that most of the technology was stymied somewhere between the drawing board and production. But there is good news in the President’s 2011 Budget for nukes.

The New York Times reported that the budget contains $500 million over five years for DOE to complete two designs and secure National Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval. The reactors will be built entirely in a factory and trucked to the site, like “modular homes”. Sounds just like what Dr. Andres ordered. Only problem is that $500 million is only about half of the cost to get to NRC approval. Actual production is in the $2 billion neighborhood, and that is a pricey neighborhood. Enter Amory Lovins.

Amory has often derided the cost for nuclear power as an unnecessary expenditure. His argument is that micropower is the way of the future, not big honking gigawatt nuclear power plants. Although there has been a resurgence in the interest in nuclear power, it is still difficult to find private investments willing to underwrite the expense. Maybe the development of small nukes for national security reasons will lead to cost effective small nukes for distributed micropower nationwide.

Small reactors for FOBs are more problematic. Even Bagram only needs about 25 MW with other FOBS being smaller. Security will be the first concern. If someone tries a smash and grab at Fort Hood they have to go through a couple of armored divisions and have a long way to got to get away. Kabul to Peshawar is only 128 miles. Cost shouldn’t be an overriding factor in considering secure power, but even at a 75% cost reduction in production, half a billion for 25MW is a bit much. Of course if you could produce a 300MW system, Bagram could air condition Kabul! The real soft power.

My buddy, T.C. the fighter pilot, would tell you that DOD's mission is to fight and win the Nation's wars, not spark business recovery. DOD needs to focus on conserving energy. “Reducing the consumption at Miramar by 50% might save a lot of fuel and money, but I'd rather reduce consumption by 50% at PB Jugroom even though the savings in gallons and dollars are tiny.” Reducing demand reduces risk.

All that being said, it may well be worth DOE and DOD efforts to explore the potential. It is something that may be beyond the means of commercial entities, but not government (See China). If there is going to be a market here, let us not be left behind as we have been with other alternative energy production means.

Pictured: Hyperion (left) and Babcock & Wilcox (right) Small Reactors. Click image for article.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Old Program, New Rules: Robyn Untethers ECIP

Nice piece in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Air Force Facilities Energy Center Newsletter (COE and NAVFAC, please send link to yours!). The only programmed money the Services have specifically for energy projects is the DOD Energy Conservation Investment Program, part of the Military Construction Budget. The Services submit a wish list for projects that DOD then racks and stacks according to their savings to investment (SIR) ratio. This has been the sole criteria. The lowest ratio on the FY 2011 list was .99 with the average being 2.77. The requirement for at least a 1 to 1 SIR meant no high risk projects need apply. Once the Congress allocates the resources, DOD draws a line and above the line gets funded and below the line tries again. But apparently, all that is changing.

According to the article, the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) Dr. Dorothy Robyn is taking the bureaucratic shackles off the program. In a memo last December, Dr. Robyn said that she wants to change the program from “one of funding the Services' routine energy projects to one of leveraging their now-larger investments in ways that will produce "game-changing" improvements in energy consumption, costs and/or security”. The memo lists six examples of new candidates:

  1. Dramatically change the energy consumption at an individual or joint installation, for example, by fundamentally improving the performance of the power or steam plant;
  2. Implement across multiple installations a technology validated in a demonstration program sponsored by DoD (e.g., the Installation Energy Test Bed Initiative) or the Department of Energy;
  3. Integrate multiple energy savings, monitoring, and renewable energy technologies to realize synergistic benefits;
  4. Integrate distributed generation and storage to improve supply resiliency for critical loads;
  5. Implement an energy security plan, especially at an installation where such an investment would leverage a partnership with the Department of Energy; and,
  6. Maximize performance towards meeting the energy conservation and renewable energy goals of the Department's Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.

The memo recognizes that the opportunities afforded by Energy Savings Performance Contracts and Utilities Energy Services Contracts should not be the focus of ECIP funds. Nor should O&M projects be submitted for ECIP. The ECIP budget for FY2011 was $120 million, or enough for a single 24 megawatt solar plant. Unfortunately, those funds were distributed across 22 Army, 10 Navy/USMC, 19 USAF, 4 DeCA, 2 DIA, 3 DLA, 4 TMA and 1 OSD projects. Average expenditure: $1.8 million. Let’s hope FY2012 puts a little more money in commanders’ hands for the energy security projects they need to meet the mandates set. $250M seems reasonable.

Hats off to the USAF and AFCESA for an informative and interesting newsletter. Worth reading the whole think.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

MEAT Report on the Table

Just got word that the U.S. Marine Energy Assessment Team (MEAT) Report is on the street and available here. According to the source, the MEAT Team mission was one of a series of actions driven by the Commandant (CMC) and the Marine Corps to address its energy challenges. In October 2009 the CMC created the Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O) to "analyze, develop and direct the Marine Corps energy strategy."

In late 2009, at CMC's direction, the Marine Corps established the Experimental Forward Operating Base, or "ExFOB," to identify and evaluate new capabilities to make combat units more energy self-sufficient in today's fight and in the future. In less than a year's time, ExFOB sourced commercial and government capabilities, trained an Infantry Company with renewable energy technology, and deployed them to Afghanistan in winter 2010--delivering a positive impact on combat effectiveness.

We anticipate that in early 2011 the Corps will issue a comprehensive Expeditionary Energy Strategy, complete with goals, performance metrics, and a plan for implementation out to 2025. At the same time they intend to take steps to institutionalize the change by establishing formal requirements via the Expeditionary Energy, Water, and Waste Initial Capabilities Document (ICD), now in draft.

This final line is the most telling. Finally DOD will have an actual Requirement documents to allow the acquisition wheels to start turning. More on this in the next post.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Army Modernization Features Energy

The January 2011 edition of Soldiers Magazine was themed “Modernizing the Force”. The magazine described the Army’s concept for keeping pace with everything from munitions to uniforms in an era of shrinking budgets and an over stretched force. The technologies ranged from GPS guided artillery munitions to bringing back the Light Assault Weapon (LAW). In addition to the suite of unmanned vehicles and robotic surrogates, Army efforts in energy are highlighted in the final articles.

R&D for Soldier power in the form of conformable, rechargeable batteries and propane fuel cells are discussed. Conformable, prismatic lithium ion batteries are commercially available. The real challenges are the propitiatory connectors required for different power using devices. Fuel cells running on JP8 are also under development at TARDEC; this will tamp down the arguments from DLA-E about single fuel on the battlefield.

Another piece discusses how Charlie Troop, 5-73rd CAV ”discovered 25 solar-powered water filtration machines locked up in an old hangar at Forward Operating Base Hammer, east of Baghdad”. The troop repaired and deployed the systems and began providing 30K gallons of water a day on sun power. The unit that replaced the troop took up the mission. A local village leader said. “Saddam couldn’t get us water. Bin Laden couldn’t get us water. Muqtada Al-Sadr couldn’t get us water. Now, the American Soldiers have finally brought us water.”. A great news story, but one wonders what the Army is doing to follow up on that success. The article does not say who produced the systems, who procured them or whether more are being deployed.

A couple of CONUS energy efforts were also featured. A series of small renewable energy projects from solar walls at Fort Drum to “the Army’s largest solar power site” , a 2 MW array at Fort Carson, described in this January 2008 article. No word on the much touted 500 MW arrays planned for Fort Irwin, CA.

A cooperative geothermal exploration program pairs the Navy with the Army to explore the potential for 30 MW of power production at Hawthorne Army Depot, Nevada. The program, begun in December 2009 with an MOA between the departments, is based upon the Navy’s success with their 20 year old, 250 MW plant at China Lake. Their project sells the power to the local utility with the Navy receiving payments from the plant operator. Standing by for news on what the study produces.

This particular article finishes with Doug Waters, manager, Renewable Energy and Net-Zero Energy Installations Program, Facilities Policy Division, ACSIM stating that the Army will bring on 1,500 MW of renewable energy power by 2017. Mr. Waters was the senior Army official quoted in the series of articles. 300 MW a year for the next five years; now that is a bold, audacious goal. We look forward to seeing that plan.