By Sam Alvord and Andrea Snyder
While the U.S. Coast Guard Academy may be one of the smallest of the nation’s five federal service academies, it recently awarded the largest Utility Energy Service Contract (UESC) within the entire Department of Homeland Security’s history. The 85-year-old campus is now undergoing unprecedented improvements that will usher in holistic energy efficiency and energy resilience measures, and allow the academy to compete with top institutional chemistry labs in the region.
The Coast Guard Academy was founded in 1876 aboard the schooner Dobbin, and today offers holistic education that includes academics, physical fitness, character, and leadership, and provides multi-mission roles for future leaders. It is the first place for Coast Guard education for officers, an education that will now entail developing and executing a comprehensive energy master plan.
For numerous years, the academy, located in New London, Conn., has ranked as the third-largest energy consumer within the Coast Guard. During FY2017, the academy used 158.2-billionBtu of energy and 21.2-million-gal of water. The academy’s size, coupled with an aging infrastructure, present constant challenges for energy management.
Potential energy reduction solutions and ideas have been numerous, some even originating from the cadets. However, the sequence and integration of these ideas is complex, so much so that action across the campus had largely been stalled—until now.
SYSTEMATIC TEAM APPROACH
The Coast Guard has a robust history when it comes to performance contracting. Since 1998, the service has awarded 25 performance contracts, resulting in more than $206 million in capital improvements and reduction of 492-billion-Btu/yr.
Leveraging a combination of lessons learned and cross-functional expertise, the Coast Guard’s Office of Energy Management, Office of Civil Engineering, and the Shore Infrastructure Logistics Center codified unique performance contract procedures, roles and responsibilities, and internal controls. Resulting guidelines educate stakeholders and standardize phase entire Coast Guard alternatively-financed project lifecycle, from identification to operations and maintenance.
The UESC is one of the first Coast Guard performance contracts to capitalize the new standardized performance contract controls. Says Cdr. Josh Fant, USCG, Facilities Engineering Branch Chief: “Our approach from the beginning of this project, and every alternatelyfinanced project, is to explore and identify opportunities that realize our commitment to resourceful readiness—a blend of affordability and mission sustainment. When we forecast that we are going to do major efficiency or infrastructure work, it is imperative that we simultaneously investigate additional prospects for sustaining operations and adding resilience.”
For more than two years, the Coast Guard worked with the local utility, Eversource Energy, and the energy services company, Ameresco, to develop and continually refine a holistic energy management project that maximized energy conservation measures, energy reliability, and helped to enhance the academy’s mission as a mentor and educator for future Coast Guard officers.
CONTRACT AND PROCESSES
The Coast Guard awarded its largest UESC to date on Sept. 26, 2017. The $72.6 million contract will accomplish $39 million in capital improvements and is estimated to avoid more than $2 million in energy expenditures annually. The project is completely self-funded. Out-year energy savings will pay for all costs. The scope of work will replace the aged, fuel oil-fueled central plant with a high-efficiency natural gas plant that is supplemented by a 1-MW combined heat and power plant, expand the central chiller plant, and implement 20 other energy conservation measures.
The project includes maintenance, repair, and replacement for major equipment including the boiler, the combined heat and power plant, and the chiller plant to ensure energy savings persist throughout the term of the contract. These measures are expected to reduce total energy consumption at the academy by 16 percent, and reduce water consumption by 26 percent.
Ancillary benefits of the project will include the execution of planned capital improvements, such as a replacement of the roof membrane at Roland Hall two years ahead of plan and at a lower cost, tying three buildings into the central chiller plant, and removing existing, decentralized cooling and heating infrastructure. By including this work, the UESC not only increases energy savings, but will simplify procurement, address maintenance backlog, and dramatically simplify the operations and maintenance responsibilities at the academy.
CORE MISSION ENHANCEMENT
For the science department at the Coast Guard Academy, arguably the most important aspect of the UESC project is that the work will replace 20 antiquated fume hoods housed in the Smith Hall chemistry laboratory. The new hoods will permit cadets to work with compounds and chemicals restricted by previous conditions, double the student capacity, enhance safety, and broaden the curriculum.
Dr. Glenn Frysinger, a professor in the department, is enthusiastic about the upgrades: “We are able to double the size of our organic chemistry laboratory—from 6 to 12 students—and on the hood/infrastructure front we will be on par with the top institutions in the area.” Moreover, engineering cadets will now have an opportunity to gain early exposure to a micro-turbine generator, which is similar to the modern equipment that is found on the Coast Guard’s newest National Security Cutters.
The UESC aims to improve energy resilience by increased on-site generation through the combined heat and power plant, coupled with two rooftop solar arrays that will provide 82 percent of required electricity. The contract also includes a measure to improve the electrical distribution system, and upgrade transformers that will provide a framework for energy resilience beyond the project. These changes, in addition to the conversion from liquid fuel to natural gas, will harden the academy’s energy infrastructure and supply.
Energy leadership at the Department of Homeland Security applauds the Coast Guard for pioneering a “mission first” process that effectively optimizes the alternatively-financed contracting tool. The UESC award involved both innovative and repeatable energy management methods—standards that will now resonate throughout the department’s broader community.
A NEW CHAPTER BEGINS
On Nov. 20, 2017, representatives and local media gathered to mark the historic milestone for Coast Guard energy resilience as new, natural gas lines were being installed outside the campus. The same shovel used to celebrate the academy’s construction in 1931 was used to symbolize the modernization that the UESC will provide to the academy’s infrastructure and curriculum.
The $72.6 million contract will accomplish $39 million in capital improvements and is estimated to avoid more than $2 million in energy expenditures annually.
No past project or contract has immersed the entire campus so widely and modernized the academy’s infrastructure so comprehensively in one contracting action, and it will be decades before it is likely replicated again. The work will take roughly two years to complete and the Coast Guard plans to continually refine its approach to performance contract standards as it progresses.
Rear Adm. Melvin Bouboulis, USCG, Chief Engineer for the Coast Guard, best summarizes the endeavor: “The academy UESC represents the best of Coast Guard strategic energy management mission support. The approach is efficient and holistic, yet innovative, and considers the well-being of our cadets, officersin-training, and our valued workforce. The project team blended technical rigor, with financial management and contracting expertise to ensure our future Coast Guard leaders experience firsthand, the benefit to placing energy management as a foundation for their own individual leadership principles.”
Sam Alvord is Chief, Office of Energy Management, U.S. Coast Guard; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrea Snyder is Senior Communications Consultant, Verus Resource Management Inc.; email@example.com.
The views herein are those of the authors and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.
[Article first published in the March-April 2018 issue of The Military Engineer.]