JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – October might be Energy Action Month in the United States, but for U.S. Army Installation Management Command, every month is about energy action.
Lt. Gen. Omar Jones, IMCOM commanding general, said the Army is involved in several important initiatives aimed at strengthening the resilience of Army installations.
“Our installations have to be resilient to do what our nation asks us to do -- our core mission, which is to fight and win our nation’s wars. We can’t do that if our installations aren’t energy resilient and water resilient, and that is the hallmark of our energy and water programs across the command and the Army,” Jones said.
A prominent energy success story includes Fort Knox, Kentucky, which is the Department of Defense’s first energy-independent installation.
RJ Dyrdek, Fort Knox energy manager, spoke about the garrison’s initiatives in becoming completely self-sufficient by using geothermal heating and cooling, and generating electricity through the combustion of natural gas for the installation’s 11 million square feet of space.
“At Fort Knox, we use geothermal water-to-water heat pumps to help cool and heat our buildings,” Dyrdek said. “The sub-surface temperature of the Earth is usually right around 58 degrees. We circulate water through a series of 500-foot wells to make use of that temperature. During the summer, that 58-degree water helps to cool our buildings, and in the winter, that 58-degree water helps to heat them."
Fort Knox’s Energy Security Program enables the garrison to generate its own electricity and go off the grid, Dyrdek said.
“We took natural gas, where we were authorized to drill natural gas wells, and circulated it around the installation to our substations where we generated electricity through the combustion of natural gas and put it in our electrical distribution system,” Dyrdek said.
Perhaps the most unique feature of Fort Knox’s energy program is how it keeps the Army Human Resources Command facility cool year-round.
The data center in the HRC facility needs air conditioning 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, Dyrdek said.
“We expanded the retention pond next to the facility and dug 25 feet below where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built it for a total of 38 feet deep,” Dyrdek said. “By using the colder temperatures of the deeper water, we help to provide cooling for our data center. The system circulates the hot water from the air conditioner systems through loops in the bottom of the pond where it is cooled, helping to boost the efficiency of the system. It saves Fort Knox over $10,000 a month in energy costs.”
Fort Detrick, Maryland, installed a 6-megawatt battery energy storage system in May. This system is expected to operate for up to 20 years, help with the site’s energy resiliency, and designed to provide $125,000 in yearly utility savings. Project completion is scheduled for early 2023.
A combination of DoD and third-party financing has contributed to water resiliency successes.
This include Fort Carson, Colorado, where potable, or drinking, water was used to irrigate the athletic fields and golf courses. In partnership with a third-party contractor, the base constructed an irrigation system using treated water that saved the drinking water for the people who live and work on it.
At Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the Army has saved more than 3 million gallons of potable water by treating water with a reuse storage tank and a rain harvesting project. At Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, upgrades to four miles of 90-year-old infrastructure stopped leaks and saved more than 1 million gallons of water.
While he remains excited about the myriad energy and water initiatives across Army garrisons, Jones says more help is needed.
“One way we contribute to Army readiness is by looking hard at our energy and water use intensity to ensure we are being as efficient as possible. We must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars that support our installations and quality of life for our Soldiers, Civilians and Families,” he said.
“For like-minded partners out there, we want to work with you to continue to make the Army more resilient, while finding ways to maximize affordability and efficiency,” Jones concluded.