FORT KNOX, Ky. – The only one of its kind Defense Department-wide, the energy program at Fort Knox is now paving the way to a more efficient and ‘greener’ future.
Unlike much of world’s power distribution, Fort Knox utilizes a decentralized energy system. According to installation Energy Division manager Robert Dyrdek, the system’s definition boils down to one basic principle:
“Decentralized means ‘make it where you use it.’”
Dyrdek explained the converse to a decentralized system is a centralized one, where power is generated at one main location and then sent great distances to where it’s needed. He said today this method is no longer the best option.
“It was a great idea 100 years ago. It was the only way to do it,” said Dyrdek. “Now, it just doesn’t have the same economical value that it did back then.”
While power has to travel numerous miles through high tension wires in a centralized system, decreasing along the way, the benefits to a decentralized one equate to far greater efficiency with far less loss.
Dyrdek said there is also another key benefit, one that became a major contributing factor to establishing it at Fort Knox after the devastating ice storm of 2009 hit Central Kentucky
“It’s resilient and secure,” said Dyrdek.
He pointed out how important this aspect is during times of major outages because the system allows Fort Knox to keep running.
“So it’s a dual value,” said Dyrdek. “When all the grids around you fall apart, your decentralized power is still energizing your area -- without loss.”
Another big part of reducing lost energy is the reuse of heat produced by the system, according to Dyrdek. He said they capture generated heat and repurpose it right on the spot.
“When we use the heat for a boiler or other means that needs heat, it doesn’t go to waste,” said Dyrdek.
Decentralized power helps the environment three ways: by reusing lost energy, reducing waste and increasing efficiency. Dyrdek said the system at Fort Knox operates at a much higher efficiency level than its centralized counterparts.
“We’re over 80%,” said Dyrdek. “So when you go from 20-30% to 80% efficiency, that’s a whole lot bigger benefit.”
Installation Directorate of Public Works officials say they hope others will see the success Fort Knox has had with decentralized power and adopt the concept in more locations.
“All these high concentrated, energy consuming areas would benefit by those huge efficiency improvements if they went to decentralize,” said Dyrdek. “When you change it 50% in terms of efficiency, it’s a no-brainer. Everybody wins.”
As the days of only being able to have a select few plants be responsible for the entire nation’s power grid fade into the past, Dyrdek said now is the time to continue moving toward more efficient decentralized power.
“When you waste less,” said Dyrdek, “you’re doing a better job.”