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NREL Helping the Army Be as Green as it Can Be

April 7, 2011

Photo of a man in a uniform plugging an electric car into an outlet Enlarge image

Spc. Dean Kalogris from Headquarters Company, Fort Bliss, Texas, charges the installation's command sergeant major's electric car. The cars, which are made from recycled plastic and can reach speeds of 25 mph, are driven by base leadership as a demonstration of their commitment to helping keep energy costs down.
Courtesy of U.S. Army/Maj. Deanna Bague

"Army green" may lead the average person to think about the color of uniform fatigues or an original Army Jeep their grandfather's garage, but U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE ) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is helping the U.S. Army with a new program that will have Army installations across the country thinking "green" — all the way to net zero.

Funding from DOE's Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) is enabling NREL to partner with the Army to jump start the "Army Vision for Net Zero" program. All agencies in the federal government are looking for ways to meet mandates to reduce energy as a result of Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic PerformancePDF.

It expands energy reduction and environmental performance requirements for federal agencies so that they will take the lead in creating a clean energy economy. The executive order calls for new buildings to be net zero energy by 2030, and seeks a 30 percent reduction in water use and a 50 percent reduction in waste that goes to landfills.

The National Defense Authorization Act also mandates that the Army produce or acquire 25 percent of its energy from renewables by 2025. Through the Vision for Net Zero program, the Army will look for ways to manage its installations not only on for net zero energy, but for water and waste as well.

"The first priority is less," Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment Katherine Hammack said. "If you use less energy, you don't have to buy as much – or you don't have to make as much from alternative energy sources or renewable energy sources. So if you look at energy, that is a focus on energy efficiency. If you're talking about water, then that's water conservation. Or even if you're talking about waste, that's reducing the amount of waste we have in the steam."

Let the Challenge Begin

Photo of a man in a blue shirt in front of a light background. Enlarge image

The Net Zero Installation Energy Program "started with us helping the Army define net zero energy and helping them think about the selection process for the bases interested in joining the program," NREL Senior Project Leader Sam Booth said.
Credit: Dennis Schroeder

Army installations have nominated themselves to participate in the Net Zero Installation program. On April 19, an announcement will be made at the Army's Installation Symposium and Exposition identifying five bases selected to work toward each of the goals — net zero energy, net zero water and net zero waste. In addition, more than a dozen bases have signed up to achieve all three goals and some will be asked to work toward a triple crown.

At the Army's request, NREL created the application for the Net Zero Installation Energy program. The NREL team currently is evaluating more than 60 applications from installations around the country. Net zero energy attracted the most applications with 53 installation expressing interest, 23 installations signed up for Net Zero Water, and 24 for Net Zero Waste, with 14 expressing interest in all three.

NREL will whittle down the list to the best candidates and provide recommendations and technical information to Army leadership for final selections.

"NREL is perfectly situated to assist the Army with this project," NREL Senior Vice President Bobi Garrett said. "NREL has done a number of net zero energy assessments and we've written guide for net zero energy at military installationsPDF. We bring a great deal of experience that is valuable to the process."

"The Army had this net zero goal and we saw it as an opportunity for NREL to provide support and engagement – thanks to FEMP Funding," NREL Senior Project Leader Sam Booth said. "It started with us helping the Army define net zero energy and helping them think about the selection process for the bases interested in joining the program."

Installations provided NREL with information about command level support, their vision for net zero, a history of energy efficiency strategies, and any mission critical needs for moving forward. Once the finalists for the program are announced, NREL will work with bases on net zero energy efforts and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will work with installations on water conservation and waste diversion.

The game is not over for Army posts that will not be a part of the pilot program. "That doesn't mean that the others are done," Army Net Zero Installation Portfolio Manager Kristine Kingery said. "We are going to look to all installations to pursue becoming net zero — no matter what. We plan to leverage lessons learned at the pilot installations as we expand the program to 25 installations in 2014."

Army Already on its Way to Net Zero

Photo of two men standing in front of a solar array ready to cut a red ribbon with scissors. Enlarge image

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham, commanding general, Division West, First Army and Fort Carson, prepare to cut the ribbon on the Fort Carson solar power array on Jan. 14, 2008. That site now provides energy to roughly 540 homes as part of an Army-wide effort to become more energy efficient. It's also an example of energy solutions installations could embraces as part of the net zero installation challenge.
Courtesy of U.S. Army/ Michael J. Pach

Beginning in 2008, FEMP, along with primary support from NREL, Department of Defense (DOD) and the Armed Services, engaged in a program looking for potential for net zero installations (NZEI) across all branches of the military. A 2008 report from the Defense Science Board concluded that critical missions at military bases are facing unacceptable risks from extended power losses. To address this concern, DOD intends to establish NZEIs, defined as military installations that pro­duce as much energy on site from renewable energy generation as they consume in their buildings, facilities and fleet vehicles. To achieve NZEI status, an installation must minimize its energy consumption through conservation and efficiency measures, then meet the balance of energy demand with renewable energy. NREL helped identify pilot locations for NZEIs for each of the services. The Army's location is the Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii.

"We had some things in the works before the launch of current our net zero installation challenge," Kingery said. "Assistant Secretary Hammack has expanded the program accordingly, looking for ways to better manage our natural resources. We need to do this because it has mission and operational implications and we believe that in the long run it will benefit us financially."

The installations selected for the Army's program likely will need some project support that NREL is uniquely positioned to provide. One of the questions on the NREL-created application simply asks Army staffers, "What additional support do you need?" According to Booth, most of the applications list something – from subject matter experts to contractors to project managers.

Photo of a woman signing a large poster with men and women in uniform in the background. Enlarge image

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Katherine Hammack recently toured Fort Bliss along with Fort Bliss commanding general Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard (standing behind her). During her visit she received an update on the post's energy efficiency projects.
Courtesy of U.S. Army/ Lt. Col. Deanna Bague

Other installations participating in the Army Vision for Net Zero could learn from projects at Fort Bliss:

  • Solar daylighting in the dining facility, warehouse and gym
  • Photovolatics on a number of buildings including 100 kW on the Dining Facility
  • Building envelope renovations such as replacing single pane windows with energy efficient windows
  • Utility monitoring and control for heating and air-conditioning systems in approximately 70 buildings with an additional 557 buildings to be completed by 2012.
  • A study that confirms the technical and economic feasibility of hybrid Waste-to Energy/Concentrating Solar Power plant at Fort Bliss for 90 to 140 megawatts, based on the City of El Paso committing to provide 1 million tons per year of municipal solid waste.

"The Army's net zero vision is a holistic approach to addressing energy, water, and waste at Army installations," Kingery said. "We look at net zero as a force multiplier for the Army that will help us steward our resources and manage our costs."

Learn more about NREL's work for FEMP and the Army's Vision for Net Zero.

— Heather Lammers