By J.E. “Jack” Surash, P.E., SES, M.SAME, and Robert Hughes, M.SAME
U.S. Army installations operate continuously while providing daily combat support around the globe. This requires secure and reliable access to energy and water on its installations to conduct missions and fight wars. Physical, natural, and cyber threats, including climate change, jeopardize mission capabilities. Winter Storm Uri, which severely impacted the grid in Texas in early 2021, and other storms and cyberattacks, remind us of the vital need to be prepared for and anticipate threats. We must have the ability to recover rapidly to perform our missions across the entire Army spectrum.
Army installations and their critical missions almost always rely on commercial utilities for energy and water. The increased frequency and magnitude of severe storms and grid outages, as well as the potential dangers of man-made threats, are forcing us to confront the greater risk of extended power and water disruptions. The need to be resilient is now.
The Army is focused on increasing the resilience of installation energy and water infrastructure to withstand future threats. The Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI) serves as the Army’s central program management office for the development, implementation, and oversight of privately financed, large-scale energy projects focused on enhancing energy resilience, energy security, and sustainability. We collaborate with industry, public utilities, and other stakeholders to implement projects that blend energy generation, storage, and control capabilities.
To facilitate this progress, the Army utilizes available acquisition and real estate authorities to develop comprehensive energy resilience solutions that are beneficial to all stakeholders.
SUPPORTING CRITICAL MISSIONS
Published in December 2020, the Army Installations Strategy (AIS) is the foundational document that drives our goal for resilient installations. Within AIS is a line of effort, “Strengthen Readiness and Resilience,” that includes an objective for the Army to adopt resilient systems. In alignment with this strategy, the Army Installation Energy & Water Strategic Plan sets the vision that the service’s energy and water infrastructure supporting critical missions be resilient, efficient, and affordable.
To help accomplish this, the Army is pursuing the development of microgrids across its installations. Microgrids are local electrical systems with the controls to manage multiple generation sources and loads. They can provide power and operate independently from the grid during times of emergency response. A microgrid also can reduce costs by providing grid services to the regular utility provider, such as demand response and frequency regulation.
In addition to focusing on low-cost or no-cost management as well as encouraging behavior changes to reduce energy loads, OEI also promotes energy resilience investments. We pursue energy resilience efforts through three funding approaches: private financing, third-party financing, and direct appropriations.
Private Financing. Privately financed projects, which is the preferred type of funding, utilize Real Estate Outgrants, typically in the form of leases or easements. These authorities enable private industry to utilize Army land for siting of commercial energy assets, in exchange for providing the Army with first right to power in the event of an electrical grid outage.
OEI currently has 11 operational projects with 325-MW of production capacity, and several other projects in the assessment, validation, or agreement phases of review and development. As of FY2021, Army energy projects through OEI include about $1.2 billion of private investment. An example is at Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, Calif., which serves as the California National Guard’s primary military training facility and emergency response hub in Southern California.
The project (a collaborative effort between the base, OEI, the California National Guard, the Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) is expected to include 28-MW of solar photovoltaics, a 20-MW/40-MWh battery energy storage system, and a 3-MW backup diesel generator to enhance energy resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The developer would construct, own, operate, and maintain the infrastructure, which will include microgrid components to “island” the installation’s critical missions for a minimum of 14 days during a grid outage. Projects like this that achieve energy resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions help expedite progress toward strengthening energy resilience for the Army and the local community.
Direct Funding Source. OEI also helps the Army compete for appropriated funds through the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program, which is authorized by Title 10 U.S.C. § 2914. It is the only direct-funded program for energy resilience, conservation, and renewable energy projects that enhance an installation’s energy security. The program is a competitive defense-wide opportunity that allows components to submit projects for approval and funding. It is specifically intended to fund projects that improve energy resilience, contribute to mission assurance, save energy, and enhance economic performance.
Enhancing resilience often involves combining funding strategies, such as in the utility owned and operated, grid facing, 30-MW solar array onsite at Fort Benning, Ga. The solar project was facilitated by a 35-year easement for the property where the array was installed. To add resilience components, the Army is now pursuing a project through the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program that would provide a microgrid to support a portion of Fort Benning’s critical power needs during a utility grid outage. It would include natural gas generators, a battery energy storage system, controls, inverter upgrades, and distribution equipment. The project would result in a microgrid connecting a portion of the existing 30-MW solar array to Fort Benning’s main substation to provide power during a grid-wide outage. The initial solar contribution could be increased at a future date with further investment to meet expanded mission demand.
The Army will continue to build upon existing clean energy projects on installations in support of both energy and climate resilience. Over 100 Army installations have onsite renewable energy assets for a total of more than 500-MW of installed capacity. Most of this capacity is provided by solar photovoltaics; approximately 395-MW is a result of privately financed assets on or near Army land. While these renewables are already contributing to climate mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Army is looking to further utilize these energy generation assets by adding energy storage and energy control assets to create a microgrid at each installation to enhance readiness.
Third-Party Financing. In addition, the Army utilizes third-party financing—such as Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and Utility Energy Service Contracts (UESCs)—to achieve energy resilience. ESPCs and UESCs are statutorily authorized and allow agencies to implement facility improvements with no upfront capital costs. Since 1992, the Army has entered into over $3.2 billion of ESPCs and UESCs. These projects routinely meet and exceed their guaranteed energy and water savings. For example, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany recently implemented a $9.4 million ESPC that involves facility optimization, grid-interactive solutions, data centers, improved energy and water resilience, and enhanced energy diversity and security, including hardened cybersecurity of operational technologies.
The Army will continue to use ESPCs and UESCs to reduce energy and water consumption, increase energy resilience, and construct renewable energy power generation assets and microgrids. The overarching goal is to deliver reliable, performance-driven operations and maintenance for complex systems and technologies.
Installations, as part of the strategic support area, are critical to the Army’s ability to train, equip, mobilize, deploy, and sustain forces in support of dynamic force employment and homeland defense. They support military operations preparation and execution, and they provide sustainable and secure infrastructure and services. Army installations must have assured access to energy and water for mission readiness. As new weapons and threats expand the battlespace, the criticality of resilient installations will only increase.
The Army is fully committed to leveraging all available technologies and authorities, and to working with all available partners—both from government, and the private sector—to continue to strengthen energy resilience and readiness for the Army, local communities, and the nation.
J.E. “Jack” Surash, P.E., SES, M.SAME, is Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment; email@example.com.
Robert Hughes, M.SAME, is Acting Executive Director, Army Office of Energy Initiatives; firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This article first published in the March-April 2022 issue of The Military Engineer.]