Net Zero: What Is It, What Does It Mean For You?
August 7, 2012
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Rock Island, Ill. -- The U.S. Army has set the goal of Net-Zero energy consumption by 2030. For an installation to be Net-Zero it must produce as much energy on site as it consumes. This includes thermal and electrical energy. Installations can still be connected to the civilian grid, but over the course of the year the energy pulled from the grid must equal the amount supplied to it. A simple example would be if the hydro dam produced three megawatts of electricity 24 hours a day and the post used six MW for 12 hours a day and zero for the other 12 hours. Given this case, the installation would be Net-Zero because even though it still pulls three MW from the grid during the operating day, it supplies three MW back to the utility at night.
One of the primary reasons for the recent emphasis on energy is to ensure the security of the Army. In the event that the civilian power grid collapses, the military needs to be fully capable of performing its mission. Increasing the amount of energy the Army can produce on post is one way of doing this. While the current system of backup generators can protect most military installations from short term blackouts, the limited onsite fuel supply means that the base cannot operate indefinitely.
For any post to reach Net-Zero consumption it needs three things: increased renewable energy production, improved energy efficiency, and conservation. The increased renewable energy is simple for some posts and quite difficult for others. In states such as California where electricity is three times as expensive as in the Quad Cities, renewable energy projects have relatively short payback periods. In places where electricity is cheap and there are relatively few renewable options, the importance of energy efficiency and conservation increases. Energy efficiency is how much work is done with a given amount of energy. In heating and cooling it relates to how much energy is required to maintain the proper temperature in the building. In the factory, efficiency is how much energy is needed to complete a given job. While improvements in technology are the major way that efficiency increases, finding better ways to complete tasks can also decrease the amount of energy used in a process.
Finally, the simplest way to move towards the goal is to reduce the amount of energy that an installation uses. Small individual everyday acts can make a large impact. Turning off equipment and lights when not in use goes a long ways in reducing energy consumption. Another way to reduce energy consumption is to remove loads entirely. Some examples of this are using the larger refrigerators in the kitchenettes as opposed to smaller individual ones (compact fridges can use up to five times as much electricity per cubic foot as full size models), unplugging charging devices when they are not in use (even when they're not charging they still pull electricity), and removing office space heaters. Reducing your energy consumption will not only promote energy security, but will also save the Army money which can then be used to help equip and train the war fighter.
For more information on the Net Zero Goal visit the Army Energy Program webpage at