By Rear Adm. Maria Aguayo, P.E., CEC, M.SAME, USN, and Cdr. Liz Durika, P.E., CEC, M.SAME, USN
With greater frequency of unplanned utility outages and looming cybersecurity threats on supporting energy infrastructure, the Department of Defense continues to encourage and sponsor projects that increase installation energy resiliency.
For the U.S. Navy, readiness is essential to meeting its mission requirements. However, that objective is hindered by aging energy infrastructure. Throughout the service, an emphasis on installation energy modernization (and investing in redundant, renewable, and resilience energy sources) continues to become more of a priority—underscored by the publication in 2020 of an Installation Energy Resilience Strategy.
At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine, energy resiliency is vital to support the repair and modernization of the Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines, in support of the National Defense Strategy. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has generated electricity from combining heat and power since the early 1900s: initially by using steam turbines to drive direct-current generators, then expanding to drive alternating-current generators in World War II.
The installation, situated along the Atlantic coastline, now uses gas turbines while recovering the waste heat to create steam for heating and industrial processes. This has positioned Portsmouth as a pioneer in combined heat and power (CHP) microgrids, allowing it to align both with the three pillars of energy security (reliability, resilience, and efficiency) as well as with the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which requires military installations to increase energy resilience.
Federal agencies have utilized energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) since 1998 to meet federal sustainability goals by significantly reducing energy and operating costs. The contracting vehicle enables installations to take advantage of third-party financing to procure energy savings and facility improvements without needing to provide the upfront capital cost. This is especially effective in a fiscally challenged environment where limited appropriated funds are available.
Enabling Innovation. Over the last 20 years, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has entered into four ESPCs to enhance energy security—adopting a daily focus on reliability, resiliency, and energy efficiency. The shipyard has benefited these last two decades from a working collaboration with Ameresco Inc., an energy service company, that has allowed for the progression of improvements and quick adaptation of new technologies, such as stored energy, high efficiency motors and transformers, and high-speed microprocessor-based control and protection systems.
The first two ESPCs that the installation executed with Ameresco replaced aging high-pressure steam boilers and turbines with modern natural gas CHP plants. This expansion not only doubled plant capacity, but also added emergency black start generation. At the time, these two projects represented approximately 40 percent of the Navy’s ESPC investment portfolio.
The third ESPC at Portsmouth provided improved efficiency and control of the air compressor plant and repaired the installation’s condensate return distribution system.
The fourth ESPC was awarded in 2019 for expansion of the current CHP plant to meet increased demand through further optimization of the microgrid. The project includes construction of a 7.5-MW gas turbine with heat recovery; conversion of an air compressor from electric drive to steam drive in order to take advantage of the increased heat recovery; upgrades to the microgrid control system, including expansion of the fast load shed system; and a 1-MW to 2-MW-hour battery energy storage system for frequency regulation.
This most recent ESPC is estimated to yield a total of $5.8 million in annual energy savings, with a simple payback in under 10 years. To verify the success of each ESPC, savings are measured annually through engineering analysis of equipment operation, measurement of the utility systems, and costs avoidance, like those that can be attributed to unplanned power outages. In total, since 2001, the four ESPCs at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard have updated the power generation capabilities and yielded more than $100 million in savings.
Support for Shipyards. All four projects play a critical role in the Navy Global Strategy Ashore, outlined by the Chief of Naval Operations, to enhance shore resiliency, and in the mission of the Navy’s Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program in developing an aligned, integrated, and defensible strategic infrastructure plan for naval shipyards.
At Portsmouth, the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program is planning and implementing solutions to support future utility demands that are expected to nearly double following completion of more than $2.3 billion in construction and infrastructure improvements to dry docks and waterfront support facilities. Expansion of the shipyard’s power capacity, systems efficiency, and grid stability are crucial to ensuring future demands are met. This work also has the ability to support the reliability of the off-installation regional electrical grid by reducing demand and supporting frequency stabilization—critical elements to the efficient deployment of renewable resources on the regional grid.
Developing a successful union between contracting authorities, construction teams, installation customers, and the energy savings company takes a high-performing team. But the final outcome is worth it—both for the local installation and the Navy’s overall readiness in support of national security. The improvements made through the ESPCs at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard work toward the desired end-state for systems that allow the Navy to mitigate, adapt to, respond to, and recover from anticipated—and unanticipated—disruptions that impact mission-essential fleet operations. Additionally, for the most recent ESPC, Naval Facilities Engineering & Expeditionary Warfare Center and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard received the 2021 Federal Energy and Water Management Award in the contracting category.
“These increased energy reliabilities and securities allow our warfighter and nation’s assets to remain ready and resilient in our strategic competition,” explained Capt. Tres Meek, CEC. USN, Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Mid-Atlantic. “When we can increase our lethality while also decreasing our energy consumption, it’s truly a win-win.”
Rear Adm. Maria Aguayo, P.E., CEC, M.SAME, USN, is Commander, NAVFAC Atlantic and U.S. Fleet Forces Civil Engineer; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cdr. Liz Durika, P.E., CEC, M.SAME, USN, is Public Works Officer, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine; email@example.com.
[This article first published in the March-April 2022 issue of The Military Engineer.]