Army pursuing 14-day energy, water independence for installations

By David VergunMarch 28, 2017

Installations to be energy independent at least 14 days
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Installations to be energy independent at least 14 days
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – On Aug. 22, 2016, Kahu Kordell Kekoa, right, leads representatives from the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Company and government officials in a blessing and groundbreaking for a new power plant that will be built on Schofield Barracks.... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- The Army has set an ambitious goal of sustaining water and power on installations for up to two weeks, without having to depend on the civilian water and power supplies.

"The Army will reduce risk to critical missions by being capable of providing necessary energy and water for a minimum of 14 days," said John E. Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability.

Speaking Thursday at an Association of the United States Army-sponsored forum on installation management, Surash quoted a recent directive by acting secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer. That directive, titled "Installation Energy and Water Security Policy," was signed Feb. 23 and mandated limited energy independence from the public grid and water supply.

The directive was much anticipated, according to Surash. "There was great interest in doing this across the Army," he said.

The Army arrived at the 14-day requirement after having studied past power outage and water shortage patterns and matching them to critical mission requirements, Surash said.

While the directive is Army-wide, including Guard and Reserve installations, it does not apply to contingency bases and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facilities.

The directive does not have a deadline date for compliance, but it calls for immediate "analysis of resource needs, prioritization of requirements for risk mitigation and courses of action to establish and manage funding for program implementation."

Surash said a number of Army installations have already begun taking steps to become more energy independent.


At Fort Gordon, Georgia Southern spent about $70 billion to erect a solar-panel farm on 230 acres at Fort Gordon, Georgia, which generates 30 megawatts of power, Surash said. Thirty megawatts, he noted, is enough to power about 4,300 homes.

The Army could not have afforded to build the facility on its own, he said. But at Fort Gordon, the only money spent by the Army was on planning, policy and real-estate coordination. Georgia Pacific did the rest. The Army also provided the land for the project to Fort Gordon through a 35-year easement.

The project is still a work in progress, he said. The distributed generation source is not yet connected to Fort Gordon. First, storage capacity and a microgrid will need to be set up, but it's coming. "It's a neat investment," he said.


Hawaiian Electric Company is building a 50-megawatt plant on 10 acres of land in Oahu, Surash said. Once again, the Army only paid for the planning. The electric company is picking up the rest of the tab, he said.

Land in Hawaii is at such a premium that securing just 10 acres was a pretty big deal, he said. The sweetener for Hawaiian Electric is that the plant will be the only power station in Hawaii that's above the tsunami strike zone; the rest are on the coastline and are vulnerable.

The project should be completed by next spring, he said. Once completed, the black start-capable bio-diesel plant will supply 100 percent of the power needed for the Army at Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield and Field Station Kunia for 30 days, he said, with enough capacity left over to power a community hospital.

"Black start" refers to the plant being able to operate independent of the public grid after a couple of hours it takes to switch power on.

Again, "this is a neat deal for the Army and we're not paying a cent more for the electricity," he noted.


An electric company not yet named will build a combination natural gas and solar power generation station at Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, California, Surash said. The Army is only paying for the planning that goes into it.

The site will be on 115 acres and will include a microgrid and power storage facility, he said. The plant will generate 16 megawatts of power to the joint base for a minimum of seven days and a maximum of 30 days should the public grid go down. When power isn't down, the owner of the plant will benefit by selling power to the grid.

Proposals for the project will probably go out in six months, with construction likely beginning in a year and a half, he said.


These projects and others like them are a big deal for the Army, Surash said. In fiscal year 2016, the Army spent $1.2 billion on energy out of its $148 billion budget for that year. "So it's a sizeable chunk," he said.

Another effort the Army is working on is going to "net zero" in terms of water, electricity and waste, he said. Net zero means the Army will produce as much energy as it consumes, produce as much water as it consumes, and through reduction, reuse and recycling, eliminate waste.

Net zero began about eight years ago as a pilot but has since expanded Army-wide. With respect to renewable energy, the Army is now producing 320 megawatts of energy capacity, according to Surash.

"This is about security and sustainability," he said.

(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS)

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