Energy program saves money, resources for USACE districts
The Tom Bevill Lock and Dam near Alliceville, Alabama, is one of 10 lock and dam structures on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to receive retrofit and replacement of lighting systems from Huntsville Center’s Energy Savings Performance Contract program. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- A U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville energy and resource conservation program, previously only providing cost savings and environmental stewardship for military installations around the world, has expanded to cover the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works programs.

The Center’s Energy Savings Performance Contract program has been reducing energy use and water consumption at military installations since the mid-1990s.

The program construct relies on a selected Energy Service Company, or ESCO, to provide capital and expertise to make comprehensive energy and water reduction, energy resilience and security efficiency improvements on facilities, and maintains them in exchange for a portion of the generated savings.

Fort Polk, Louisiana, was one of the first Army installations to take advantage of the ESPC, saving $44 million over 20 years. Other major ESPC projects followed at Fort Bliss, Texas, in 2010; Rock Island Arsenal in 2014; Letterkenny Army Depot in 2015; and a $50 million ESPC for solar power at White Sands, New Mexico and Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico.

As Army installations were realizing ESPC savings, Huntsville Center soon began expanding to other service branches. The Navy came calling in 2012 to develop a $12 million contract for the Space and Warfare Command Systems Center-Pacific in San Diego, California.

Eight years ago, Mobile District embarked on the first-ever Energy Savings Performance Contract executed to improve the infrastructure along the Tennessee-Tombigbee (Tenn-Tom) Waterway.

Huntsville Center’s ESPC program developed the $2.8 million contract with Siemens Government Technologies Inc., to replace and retrofit multiple sites along the Tenn-Tom — primarily lighting at its 10 locks and dams.

Due to the contract’s annual savings measurement and verification process ensuring payment to the ESCO never exceeds the actual savings, other USACE divisions and districts took notice of the value of the ESPC program.

In 2015, Pittsburgh District jumped on board after an ESPC Site Survey Report identified potential energy and water conservation projects within the 26,000 square mile district. The SSR recommended solutions to reduce utility costs and dependence on fossil fuels while providing a more sustainable and safer operation in alignment with Federal mandates and Executive Orders.

After the ESCO installed programable thermostats and LED lighting, replaced transformers with high efficiency models, and replaced 2” water meters with ¾” meters reducing flow rates, the ESPC for Pittsburgh District has saved more than $1.8 million.

New Orleans and Albuquerque Districts have joined Mobile and Pittsburgh District in the use of ESPCs and improving infrastructure while saving money.

The Mississippi Valley Division headquarters building in New Orleans has an ESPC replacing inefficient lighting fixtures with lower wattage LED technology, resulting in a guaranteed savings of more than $300,000.

Lighting upgrades, installation of programable thermostats and HVAC upgrades at Albuquerque District facilities saved more than $69,000 in fiscal 2022.

Dale Adkins, Huntsville Center ESPC program director, said he believes the growth of the program in USACE Civil Works projects is due policy and legislation having imparted the importance of Third Party Financing as a tool to execute efficiency and resilience projects.

“The program assists in providing improved energy infrastructure in a budget constrained environment,” Adkins said.

“Our dedicated and experienced project delivery teams offer streamlined and standardized processes that make Huntsville Center different from the other organizations that only award ESPC’s because we have a centralized project management ‘one-stop-shop that manages the contract for the full life cycle.”

Justin Murphree, Mobile District Operations Project Manager for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, said the ESPC has certainly lowered electricity bills, but the largest benefit has been the upgraded lighting at the locks and dams which has improved working conditions for Mobile District employees.

“Saving money on power bills is a huge plus, but the lighting at the locks is a huge benefit. Our Lock Operators have to work outside at night in an industrial type of atmosphere. The improved lighting is making their jobs a lot easier and safer,” Murphree said.

Murphree noted that the ESPC has made Mobile District’s Civil Works program much more efficient too.

“Our maintenance crews spend a lot less time repairing lighting and replacing bulbs. Overall, it has been a great experience.