REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The energy companies came from all over the country -- California, Maryland, Virginia and Illinois, to name a few -- to hear about a new initiative at Redstone Arsenal that will potentially add on-post-generated solar electric power as a renewable energy source used by its 72 tenants.
A pre-proposal meeting Aug. 20 at The Summit outlined the Army's energy and sustainability goals, and the Energy Initiatives Task Force's role and overview of the planned Solar Electric Power Purchase Agreement contract for Redstone Arsenal, which will be awarded and managed by the Corps of Engineers' Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville. In attendance at the meeting were representatives from 23 energy companies interested in being part of the Army's energy initiative at Redstone.
If all goes as planned, the Garrison will be breaking ground within the year for a contractor-owned, operated and maintained solar array farm within Arsenal borders at one of two potential sites -- a 148-acre site along Redstone Road and a 40-acre site along Neal Road.
"This is incredibly important for the Army's future and the future of Redstone Arsenal. We are all in for finding better ways to reduce requirements for energy and for using renewable sources for that energy," said Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, speaking to the group as both the Arsenal's senior commander and the deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command, which manages 23 of the Army's 150 installations, arsenals, depots and ammunition plants.
Renewable sources will also provide the installation with energy security, she added.
Many of AMC's 23 installations are part of the organic industrial base infrastructure where manufacturing and remanufacturing of the Army's equipment occurs. Those types of installations use a lot of energy to fuel the manufacturing process.
"We are seeking ways to reduce the cost of operations, and much of that can come through the reduction in the cost of energy and water," McQuistion said. "It is very important for us to look for ways to reduce energy costs. We are very interested in all initiatives that will make us energy secure and resilient, and the best stewards of our natural resources."
Redstone Arsenal will lead the way in reducing energy costs and ensuring energy security through its participation in the Multiple Award Task Order Contract, which provides a pool of qualified contractors to compete to supply renewable energy technologies. On July 29, the Corps of Engineers' Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, in coordination with the Army's Energy Initiative Task Force, issued a request for proposal under the Multiple Award Task Order Contract that offered to establish a contract relationship in which the Army will procure annually up to 18,000 megawatt-hours of solar-generated renewable electricity made available through a facility built on Arsenal property leased to the contractor for 27 years.
"Today is about making this installation the driver of the MATOC contract. … It's really important to us to get this right and to get the best benefit of the task order. This is the next step in energy security," McQuistion said.
Redstone's energy security first came into question in the aftermath of the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak that crippled power sources for nine days in North Alabama, affecting all mission operations at Redstone.
Those missions include serving as the command and control center for Army logistics, foreign military sales and contracting; as the center for research, development, test and fielding of aviation and missile systems; as a center for space operations and missile defense initiatives; and as a center for intelligence and homeland defense.
"This is the community where excellence is the minimum standard. … What we do is not just important to this community but to national defense," Garrison commander Col. Bill Marks said. "This is a national strategic hub" involving 37,000 employees, 72 tenants, 38,125 acres, 19 million square feet of building space, 1,800 facilities and a 7,200-foot airfield.
Up until the tornadoes of 2011, "we never had lost power. And then we lost power for nine days. The tornadoes took out multiple feeds from multiple power stations," Marks said. "We observed a lesson. We have worked from that point forward to make the power grid more robust."
Energy security, renewable energy and energy efficiency are all important in moving forward with two renewable energy projects at Redstone -- solar power and, later, a combined heat and power plant, Marks said. These two technologies will be part of a Redstone power source that also includes TVA.
"Right now, we use up to 82 megawatts of power a day in the summer. We want to cut that down substantially while going from one power source to three," Marks said.
"Security and redundancies are starting to unfold as we work to contribute to the Army's goal of deploying one gigawatt of renewable energy by 2025. This project creates energy security for this installation. I look forward to having the most robust power grid that's possible."
The Army is the nation's largest consumer of electricity, although that usage is spread throughout the U.S. at its installations, said Amanda Simpson, the executive director of the Army's Energy Initiatives Task Force, which will become the Office of Energy Initiatives in fiscal 2015.
The name change, she said, "is a testament to the understanding of the Army that there is an evolving need to leverage renewable energy for energy security. We must have access to power so our troops can do their mission."
Congress mandated in 2007 and again in 2009 that 25 percent of the energy used by the military be from renewable sources, but, except for minimal projects initiated by the Air Force and Navy, nothing developed to fulfill that mandate, she said.
"There really wasn't the experience within the Army to do renewable projects," Simpson said.
It wasn't until the establishment of the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability led by Richard Kidd reporting to Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, that the Army began to make progress on fulfilling the congressional mandate.
"But we are not doing these projects for politically motivated reasons or because of the mandate. We are doing them for mission effectiveness," Kidd said, who also presented information about the Army's energy initiatives at the pre-proposal meeting.
In those early years, Hammack and Kidd worked to determine renewable energy objectives and goals, and to develop a business case and the development team -- the Army's Energy Initiatives Task Force led by Simpson -- so that the Army could establish good business practices with renewable energy companies.
In addition, since 2009, renewable energy costs have come down -- solar energy has gone from a cost of $3 a watt to $1.57 a watt -- so that they have become more affordable for the Army and the utility industry. Add to that the growing number of natural and manmade disasters that threaten the energy grid, and the opportunity for renewable energy projects has taken on a new demand, Kidd said.
And results are starting to show, he said. In 2012, the Army brought 16.5 megawatts of renewable energy online. Last year and this year, the Army added another 10 megawatts of renewable energy, and will continue to add "10 to 15 megawatts of renewable projects every year," he said.
Now, with the solar array project, Redstone Arsenal will be part of that story.
"What we learn here at Redstone will inform us going forward," Kidd said.
"The Army is absolutely committed to renewable for the long term. Renewable energy will be part of what the Army does from now on both tactically and at its installations."
The first phases of the Redstone project will be managed through the Energy Initiatives Task Force, which serves as the Army's "central office to manage and oversee and develop expertise for large-scale renewable projects," Simpson said.
During the past four years, while the task force grew in its capabilities to fulfill its mission, installations like Redstone began to experience natural emergencies where energy networks weren't as secure as they were expected to be. Tornadoes and other weather-related issues that jeopardize the energy grid going into Army installations were "a huge wakeup call to figure out how to ensure they have that access to energy when they need it," Simpson said.
"The Army is here to defend and protect the interests of the United States wherever it is and whenever it occurs. We must use renewable energies for energy security."
There are three tiers of priority in establishing renewable energy technologies. Some installations, such as Fort Drum, New York, which actively support deployed forces, need to develop 100 percent renewable energy sources. Other installations, such as Redstone Arsenal, need enough onsite renewable energy to ensure all critical operations have the energy required while other installations need to bring energy production on-post so they have energy access should the grid be disrupted.
The question in every instance, Simpson said, is "What are the needs for energy security and how can renewable energy play into that?"
Currently the Energy Initiative Task Force has 12 renewable energy projects in the process to be funded or brought on line. Besides Redstone Arsenal's two projects now under consideration, other projects include: Fort Huachuca, Arizona, will soon have the nation's largest solar panel system; solar arrays will be built at forts Benning, Stewart and Gordon in Georgia; a biomass facility at Fort Drum will be under contact in the next few months; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, will be home to an inland biodiesel energy facility; and Fort Hood, Texas, will be the site for the first hybrid project combining onsite solar with offsite wind.
"We have another dozen or so projects we are looking at actively pursuing. Many of those will be on the market by this time next year," Simpson said.
Once the projects are established at installations, they are turned over to the garrison at each installation for oversight.
The Army's renewable energy projects are limited to the continental U.S. where the Army owns the land being used to implement the projects. In those states where the Army has a presence, the Energy Initiatives Task Force is working to support state governments in the development of renewable energies.
"We are trying to have an influence in states where there is a large Army presence. We want to help utilities meet their goals," Simpson said. "We are the largest energy consumer in the country. The problem is we are distributed across hundreds of installations, and we can only apply pressure (to encourage renewable energies) where we have installations."
For more information on the Army's Energy Initiative Task Force (soon to be Office of Energy Initiatives), visit www.oei.army.mil.