The U.S. Army's pivot to energy and water resilience

By J.E. "Jack" Surash, PE, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy & SustainabilityOctober 22, 2018

US Army Garrison - Picatinny Arsenal ground breaking
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A new cogeneration facility at Picatinny Arsenal is expected to make the installation more energy-efficient. Breaking ground Nov. 7, 2017, are (from left) Brig. Gen. Alfred F. Abramson III, senior commander; Jordan Gillis, acting assistant secretary ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Redstone Arsenal
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Schofield Barracks
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Mr. J.E. "Jack" Surash, PE
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – J.E. "Jack" Surash, PE, became the acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy & sustainability in September 2016. In this position he is responsible for overall program direction, establishment of policies, development and refinement of... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

A shift in policy increases consideration of microgrid, CHP and diverse energy initiatives as mission-sustaining technologies.

Energy and water are fundamental elements to the readiness and resilience of the U.S. Army. The occurrence of a major power grid outage may be out of the Army's control, but preparing for a disruption and the aftermath is not. Potential threats to Army energy, water and land resources are growing in scope and complexity at home and abroad. Army energy systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks, progressively sophisticated enemy weapons, and increasingly frequent and severe weather events. The future of Army energy must be focused on energy resilience and security, because the ability to prepare for and recover rapidly from power disruptions is more critical to warfighting readiness than ever.

Given these potential threats, the Army is working to move beyond energy and water projects that just increase generation options, or save money, to projects that incorporate resilience -- including microgrids and combined heat and power systems. These projects will advance U.S. Army warfighting capabilities, reduce risk and provide commanders with increased mobility and freedom of action.


The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act set new energy policy that requires the secretary of defense to "ensure the readiness of the armed forces for their military missions by pursuing energy security and energy resilience." The Department of Defense defines energy resilience as "the ability to avoid, prepare for, minimize, adapt to, and recover from anticipated and unanticipated energy disruptions in order to ensure energy availability and reliability sufficient to provide for mission assurance and readiness including task critical assets and other mission essential operations related to readiness, and to execute or rapidly reestablish mission essential requirements."

In simple terms, energy and water resilience can be thought of as having a sound "Plan A" for supplying energy and water to critical end users but also a reliable "Plan B" that one can count on in the event of a disruption in that supply of energy or water. In May 2015, the Army released the Energy Security & Sustainability (ES2) Strategy (fig. 1), which represented a shift from considering resources as constraints on operational effectiveness to a view that recognizes the critical roles of energy, water and land resources as mission enablers. The ES2 strategy envisions a ready and resilient Army that is strengthened by secure access to these resources. In support of the ES2 strategy, the Army published the Installation Energy and Water Security Policy (Army Directive 2017-07). This directive states the Army must prioritize energy and water security requirements to ensure the availability, reliability and quality of power and water to continuously sustain all missions. "Continuously" is the key word and is the point where the Army made its pivot to resilience.

Prior to the ES2 strategy and the Army Directive 2017-07, the general approach to energy security was to be ready to repair power infrastructure that could become unserviceable as a result of an outage or event, with the assumption of the need to be ready to withstand a two- to three-day outage, often by placing backup power generators and fuel storage tanks at key facilities that would serve each of those facilities for a few days. This approach has left Army installation energy users and critical missions potentially vulnerable for an extended, wider-ranging outage. Army Directive 2017-07 recognizes this potential threat and states, "The Army will reduce risk to critical missions by being capable of providing necessary energy and water for a minimum of 14 days."

The kind of energy and water resilience envisioned in Army Directive 2017-07 for all critical missions across Army installations cannot be obtained in a day. Each installation has its own set of complex energy infrastructure, resources and mission requirements. The Army is taking a programmatic approach to integrating resilience into decision-making processes to prioritize and address energy (and water) resilience across the installations. Through Installation Status Report -- Mission Capacity (ISR-MC) data, the Army evaluates installation energy and water security and resilience posture based on the four key attributes of

• assured access,

• infrastructure condition,

• system operation and

• critical mission sustainment.

This evaluation helps the Army identify gaps in energy security and prioritize mission-critical projects.

In addition to the sheer volume and prioritization of projects, perhaps the biggest challenge in creating improved energy resilience is cost. Aside from budget constraints, it is sometimes hard to secure funding for infrastructure improvements, for example, because quantifying a specific financial return on investment for "resilience" is difficult; and the true value of energy resilience can only ever be realized in emergency situations, well after an investment decision had to be made. One way the Army has furthered energy and water resilience is through collaboration with industry to develop projects that are privately financed. Third party financing options shift the upfront investment costs to the commercial sector and accelerate the rate at which energy and water resilience are obtained. The Army also utilizes military construction funds; the Energy Resilience Conservation Investment Program, which is the only direct-funded program for energy resilience and conservation; and Sustainment Restoration Modernization funds for day-to-day maintenance of projects that have already been completed and require upgrades and renovation.


To further support this requirement and help provide installations with a more resilient plan for assured energy, the Army Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI) is looking across the Army enterprise of installations for opportunities to develop "islandable" capabilities, or projects and infrastructure that could allow installations to maintain mission-critical operations if or when the electric grid were to go down for an extended period. New projects plan to include sufficient on-site generation, energy storage and energy controls to enable the electricity from projects to be directly routed to essential requirements in the event of an extended grid disruption or other broad scale power emergency. As part of potential energy resilience solutions, the Army is assessing viability and applicability of a wide range of technologies -- including but not limited to geothermal, combined heat and power, fuel cell and natural gas generation. The goal is for these generating assets to be combined with direct feeds to circuit breakers at substations or with storage systems and controls as part of a microgrid.


The Army is positioning itself to use microgrids as a solution to energy resilience challenges wherever it makes sense, because microgrids can be an attractive alternative to standalone generators and have major advantages to providing energy security. Currently microgrid feasibility assessments are underway at several mission-critical installations; once those assessments are complete, where feasible, the Army will begin the planning and acquisition process to incorporate microgrids as appropriate as an alternative to standalone generators, which will have a major impact in improving energy security.

At Fort Huachuca, Ariz., the Army is planning for the installation of a 4 MW CHP plant fueled with natural gas. This project will also serve as the foundation for a future microgrid solution and benefits the Army by reducing energy costs, progressing energy resiliency, diversifying the energy supply and supporting Army and federal energy policies. In order to implement microgrid considerations into projects like the CHP project at Fort Huachuca, the OEI seeks to combine savings resulting from a robust consideration of opportunities within the finance, engineering, regulatory, market, real estate and environmental attributes of a project concept to leverage efficiencies for the Army, ratepayers and private-sector partners alike.

Opportunities for additional CHP projects exist across many Army installations where large barracks, dining halls, hospitals, hangars, labs, manufacturing and maintenance facilities present both thermal and power loads. In those locations, CHP plants can offer benefits by capturing heat that would otherwise be wasted from electricity generation and utilizing it to serve those thermal loads. At some locations, especially where there are high energy costs, CHP plants also offer an attractive alternative to regional grid power and can ensure that mission critical functions on installations are maintained even in the event that access to the regional electrical grid is severed.

In November 2017, the Army broke ground on a 2 MW CHP project at Picatinny Arsenal, a military research and manufacturing facility located in New Jersey. This project will provide steady steam for heating and numerous ammunition manufacturing processes in addition to providing the 2 MW of generation. The two types of energy provided by this project will significantly enhance resilience in the critical process of manufacturing ammunition at this plant.

Picatinny Arsenal will receive a $2 million incentive from the state of New Jersey's Clean Energy Program for the CHP project. The new CHP plant will be another component of the energy program at the installation, which also includes solar energy and improvements to reduce energy use. Over the years, Picatinny has achieved seven Secretary of the Army Awards for Energy Efficiency and one Secretary of the Army Award for Water Efficiency, as well as other federal awards for energy and water efficiency.

Moving forward, Army projects will seek to provide installations with more diversified energy solutions and islandable capabilities and look for ways to improve the resilience of power infrastructure to support critical missions.

An example of one of the Army's premier resilience projects can be seen in Hawaii where a privately funded, owned, operated and maintained 50 MW multifuel power generation plant, built on Army land, is configured and positioned to provide Schofield Barracks, Field Station Kunia and Wheeler Army Airfield with additional backup power during extended power grid emergencies. During normal day-to-day operations, the plant provides power to all utility customers on the Oahu power grid. The plant is located at an altitude above the inundation zone and provides blackstart capability to enhance grid resilience -- benefiting both the community and the Army. This plant became fully operational in May 2018.

Another example of energy resilience, combined with cost avoidance, is the privately financed Fort Hood, Texas, 65 MW wind and solar power project that saves the Army approximately $2 million per year and should reduce costs by more than $100 million over the term of the 28-year power purchase agreement.

A third example is at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., where a privately financed 10 MW solar power and battery project includes the Army's first commercially available battery energy storage system, with the potential to expand this project in the future to a microgrid.

These three privately funded projects were facilitated by the Army OEI to bring win-win benefits to developers and utilities, to the utility rate base and the Army, by aligning interests and incentives and unlocking hidden value so that the projects could be feasibly financed.

Army installations are implementing infrastructure projects to help increase water security as well. Similar to energy projects, the Army maintains a focus on water security and resilience projects to reduce water demand and increase efficiency on installations. By reducing water use, Army installations have lower critical water loads that in turn create a more resilient installation. For example, Fort Irwin in California completed construction of a new highly efficient water treatment plant that has a 99 percent water recovery rate, substantially reducing waste in the treatment process. Both Fort Irwin and Fort McCoy upgraded aging potable water lines to increase the reliability of their distribution systems, which are critical to installations' water resilience.


These are just a few examples of the many Army energy and water resilience activities across the enterprise. The Army will continue to increase resilience through diverse projects to address vulnerabilities in interdependent electric power grids, natural gas pipelines and water resources that support Army installations. Resilience will remain the top energy and water installation-readiness priority for the Army so that these installations are prepared to support the warfighter and critical missions.

Article republished with the permission of District Energy magazine