ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug. 17, 2015) -- When you need to charge a cell phone or turn on the lights, the power is typically there. You most likely don't have to wonder how you'll get it or how long you'll have it.
But for Soldiers at small base camps in forward operational environments, being able to harness and maintain power is essential for operating effectively. The better they're able to manage available power and energy, the less they have to rely on resupply convoys to bring more fuel and batteries, driving up costs, taking Soldiers away from other missions, and risking lives in the process.
The Secretary of the Army, the Army Chief of Staff, and the Sergeant Major of the Army made effective energy solutions a top priority, and the Army has a number of initiatives to make base camps more energy efficient by enabling Soldiers to not only maintain power for longer, but to intelligently control power distribution. The aim is to decrease the power draw and more smartly manage the use of available power, limiting the number of resupply convoys needed.
The Army demonstrated a number of these integrated capabilities at the Base Camp Integration Lab at Fort Devens, Massachusetts July 7-31, with the overall goal of reducing fuel, water and waste at small base camps.
This 300-person camp demonstration was the third in a series of demonstrations that are part of the Sustainability Logistics Basing -- Science Technology Objective Demonstration, known as SLB-STO-D. The research effort to make base logistics more sustainable is led by the Research, Development and Engineering Command, and is being managed by the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, with collaboration from the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, for several fuel saving technologies, the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to reduce water demand and waste water generated and the Army Research Laboratory for basic research across each of the areas.
"These operational demonstrations provide an excellent opportunity to showcase how each of the fuel, water and waste technologies contributes to the overall objectives when integrated together. The data collected during the event allows the systems with the highest return on investment and those that have the biggest impact to be identified," said Gregg Gildea, NSRDEC's lead for the SLB-STO-D.
CERDEC's Command, Power and Integration Directorate, or CP&I, is leading several fuel reduction technologies with the task to cut fuel consumption by 25 percent.
"Our job is to demonstrate our technologies and show how their improvements impact the issues -- those being reduction of fuel consumption, operational efficiency and how it impacts mission flexibility," said Selma Matthews, CERDEC CP&I engineer, and fuel lead for the project.
One of CERDEC's initiatives for intelligent power management is the Energy Informed Operations project, which is developing a nonproprietary tactical microgrid architecture that allows integration and sharing of different power sources aimed at providing more efficient, more reliable power for a tactical base camp.
In this demonstration, the team constructed a large microgrid consisting of several generators that powered base camp equipment, including shelters and shower facilities, as well as air conditioners, called environmental control units, said Garrett Clarke, the CERDEC CP&I software lead for Energy Informed Operations.
Having the ECUs connected to the microgrid allowed for better power distribution and provided the microgrid with initial steps toward identifying what loads are connected to the grid, and allowed the grid to intelligently shed those loads to save power if necessary, Clarke said.
Soldiers could control the ECUs directly through the EIO software application. For example Soldiers were able to turn off the cooling inside a specific tent to save power.
"The objective of the Energy Informed Operations architecture and standards will allow Soldiers to efficiently manage, monitor and control a microgrid," said Clarke. "This will provide Soldiers with real-time information about their power resources in situations where they may be constrained, may not be able to get resupply or have multiple generators or other power resources available to them. The microgrid will take into account these things and provide them with the best way to sustain their power as long as possible until that resupply can occur," Clarke said.
ECUs with improved efficiency was another capability CERDEC brought to the demonstration as part of its Innovative Cooling Equipment, or ICE, program.
The ICE program aims to reduce the electrical energy required to produce cooling and heating for forward bases as well as Brigade and below environmental requirements. This is done through advancements in thermodynamic cycles, electronics/digital controls, heating ventilation, air conditioning components and waste heat recovery.
The Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity and Project Manager Expeditionary Energy and Sustainment Systems have found that up to 60 percent of generator power goes to environmental control, said Bill Campbell, CERDEC CP&I ICE project manager.
The advanced ECUs benefit Soldiers through improved and sustained control of the environment, reduced noise and humidity control, Campbell said.
"A 10 percent ECU efficiency improvement would translate to a savings of more than three million gallons of fuel. This represents not only a potentially significant cost savings but a major reduction in the number of fuel convoys required to sustain the operations," Campbell said. "The ICE program has built prototypes which have shown that the 10 percent efficiency reduction is achievable. We are looking to continue our efforts with an ultimate goal of as much as a 30 percent efficiency improvement in all ECUs."
NSRDEC's Energy Efficient, or E2, Optimization program also reduces fuel consumption in combat outposts and platoon base shelters through enhanced energy-control management, battery storage, improved electrical component design and energy efficient shelters.
E2 Optimization's improved shelter systems feature thermal insulation, solar shade, passive ventilation and LED lighting, while two ECUs improve the heating, cooling and dehumidification capabilities. A Microgrid Storage and Distribution Unit battery storage distribution system coupled with power monitoring software minimize the running time and logistical burden of generators.
Additional power technologies demonstrated were Man-Portable Generator Sets for Power Generation for Expeditionary Small Unit Operations, or MANGEN, and the Onsite Automatic Chiller for Individual Sustainment, or OACIS. MANGEN addresses the Army's power gap between large batteries and small generator sets. The program provides a lightweight, man-portable conversion kit that adapts gasoline engines to be able to run on JP-8 fuel, the main fuel found in the field.
"The OACIS leverages high-efficiency refrigeration technology to reduce the energy and power needed to chill up to 500 liters of bottled beverages at base camps. OACIS reduces the fuel draw and encourages Soldier-hydration via easy access to cold beverages," Gildea said.
Soldier perspective is an important part of becoming a more energy efficient force, and Soldiers from the 542nd Quartermaster Force Provider Company were on hand throughout the demonstration to provide feedback on the applicability of the technologies and test their ease of use, Matthews said.
"The EIO microgrid went above and beyond what we expected to see," said a Soldier with the 542nd Force Provider Company during the demonstration. "Everything that it could possibly do would make our job even easier."
Planning is underway to demonstrate approximately 25 additional technologies to help make base camps more efficient during Fiscal Year 2016 at two venues: a 1,000-person camp demonstration at the Contingency Base Integrated Technology Evaluation Center at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and a 300-person camp demonstration at the BCIL.
Additionally, a capstone integrated demonstration is being planned with acquisition partners to showcase technologies with the greatest impact to base camp efficiency and potential for transition to programs of record in fiscal 2017.
CERDEC, NSRDEC, TARDEC and ARL are part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.