Defense Department seeks energy revolution
July 19, 2011
WASHINGTON, July 19, 2011 -- Advances in energy technology that increase warfighter capability not only help the Defense Department protect the nation, but also accomplish two other important objectives, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said here today.
“They boost the competitiveness of American industry, and they raise our nation’s overall energy efficiency,” Lynn said during a keynote speech at the Army and Air Force Energy Forum.
New developments in energy historically have bolstered the nation’s military edge, Lynn said. The shift from wind to coal in the 19th century revolutionized naval power, and nuclear energy in the 20th century transformed submarines and aircraft carriers, he noted.
“Our mastery of energy technology both enabled our nation to emerge as a great power, and gave us a strategic edge in the Cold War,” he said.
Staying at the cutting edge of energy technology remains critical to the country’s military supremacy, Lynn said, even as the nature of war itself is changing.
The recent wars have been long and far from home, and the nature of the fight leaves the U.S. “logistical tail” vulnerable to attacks, he said.
“A majority of the convoys into Afghanistan now are used for fuel,” he said. “We haul these supplies on roads laced with [explosives] and prone to ambush. More than 3,000 troops and contractors have been killed or wounded protecting these convoys.”
New energy technology may reduce that risk to forces, and can make drawn-out deployments less costly, he said.
“Our current energy technology is not now optimized for the battlefield of today, and certainly not tomorrow,” Lynn said. “We need to make investments to change that.”
For the past decade, DoD has met new security challenges with more spending, Lynn said.
“Going forward, we will not have that luxury,” he noted. “We are going to have to make hard choices about how to reallocate the resources we already have.”
The Defense Department accounts for 80 percent of the federal government’s energy use and about one percent of the nation’s, Lynn said. Three-quarters of DoD-consumed energy directly supports operations, and the cost is rising, he said.
“Last year, we spent $15 billion on energy,” he said. “We are spending 225 percent more on gasoline than we did a decade ago.”
DoD’s energy strategy addresses both increasing energy costs and the need for better energy efficiency, he said.
“The strategy is premised on the notion that a new generation of military technologies that use and store energy more efficiently will only emerge if we change how we do business, especially in acquisition,” he said.
The future force will be more capable, but also will consume more energy, Lynn said. The Defense Department now will include energy costs in its assessment of proposed new systems, he added.
“So in addition to traditional performance parameters such as speed, range and payload, we’ll now consider system energy performance parameters in the requirements and acquisition process,” he said.
Lynn said analyzing energy costs during the “analysis of alternatives” phase of major defense acquisition programs not only will ensure warfighters get the speed, range and power they require, but also help the department manage the life-cycle costs of its systems.
The energy analysis also will help DoD planners better understand the energy footprint of deployed forces and the human and financial costs of moving fuel into a theater of war, the deputy secretary said.
The Marine Corps pioneered that approach this year by including system energy performance parameters in developing a new surveillance system, he said, and the Army and the Air Force have a number of fuel-saving systems in development, including turbines and a more efficient ground vehicle.
Ground forces today use radios twice as much and computer equipment three times as much as they did a decade ago, and therefore carry roughly 20 pounds of batteries for a three-day patrol in Afghanistan, Lynn said.
“We are finding that clean-energy technology is one way to lighten the load and give out troops more agility,” he said. “In January, the Iron Rangers of the 16th Infantry Battalion deployed to Afghanistan with a suite of advanced power and energy capabilities, including better batteries, solar-powered rechargers, and propane fuel cells that can be refilled with fuel purchased locally.”
Last week, he said, a one-megawatt microgrid project started up at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Chains of “fuel-hogging generators” at forward operating bases, or FOBs, are a major source of energy waste, he said.
“Rather than efficiently distributing right-sized generators across a FOB, everyone often brings their own, resulting in tremendous overcapacity and waste,” he said. “The microgrid project at Bagram will replace 22 existing generators with just four energy-efficient ones, yielding a 30 percent savings in fuel.”
Permanent military installations also offer opportunities for better energy management, Lynn said.
Those installations draw 99 percent of their power from commercial power grids, which are vulnerable to disruption, he said.
“This vulnerability highlights the importance of the fuel cell backup systems we are installing with DOE’s help,” he added.
The department spends $4 billion a year buying energy for its facilities, Lynn noted.
“Our strategy must lower our energy bills while improving the energy security of our installations,” he said.
DoD’s workforce has already retrofitted fuel-efficient lighting, windows and heating and cooling systems in many existing facilities, and is transforming rooftops, Lynn said.
“In Hawaii, the 6,000 units of privatized Army family housing featuring rooftop solar panels make it the largest such project in the world,” he said, noting even-greater opportunities to generate energy at a lower cost are on the horizon.
DoD installations are an ideal proving ground for next-generation energy technologies, Lynn said.
He added department experts estimate those technologies could save 50 percent of current energy costs in existing buildings, and 70 percent in new construction.
DoD has spurred developments over the decades in nuclear power, the internet, microelectronics and high-performance computing, he said.
“The department has a proven track record of leveraging our [research and development] funds and buying power to seed new industries,” Lynn said.
Because DoD facilities draw power from commercial grids, the deputy secretary noted, innovations achieved in-house can directly transfer to the rest of the economy.
Systems now in testing range from the simple -- such as lighting calibrated to augment available daylight and sense human presence to run on and off -- to a more complex energy management test at Great Lakes Naval Station, Ill., which deploys distributed sensors to constantly optimize performance, Lynn said.
Energy industries’ response to the DoD test-bed program has been dramatic, Lynn said.
“Our latest solicitation generated 600 proposals for technology demonstration projects,” he added.
While change is always difficult, Lynn said, DoD’s commitment to efficient energy is firm.
“With energy supplies tightening and costs increasing, we have no choice but to make its efficient operational use a core part of fighting and winning the nation’s wars,” he said.
“This does not mean the energy revolution we are trying to foster will come easily, Lynn added, “but it does mean we have the winds of change at our back.”