FORT HOOD, Texas - Fostering energy resilience and sustaining the mission, while securing the future is the goal of the Specialties Shop for the Directorate of Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division here.
Identifying the safety risks posed, when the traffic lights went out during the Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise in March 2022, the Specialties Shop was challenged to create and implement an innovative solution.
“During the ERRE, the power across most of the installation turned off and all the intersections went dark, which created a major hazard,” Nick Campagna, Specialties Shop supervisor, DPW, said. “It was a 'Watch yourself when you pass through these intersections' situation. So my team said, ‘Hey, what can we do to develop a backup power system that can keep these signals operational during any sort of power outage?’”
Israel Santiago, electronics technician, and his peers lead the charge to battle against power outages impacting traffic intersections with an in-house developed UPS, or uninterrupted power supply.
“I sparked the idea and got permission from my supervisor to test it, and the rest of the traffic team jumped in,” he said. “Even our other sections pitched in ideas. That’s what I love about our shop.”
Santiago explained the UPS began with setting up manual transfer switches at the more than 60 traffic intersections across post, but through research, teamwork and leadership support, the UPS initiative evolved.
“Right now, I can restart any intersection with my work truck and an inverter,” he said. “But we’re also developing a system where the power will switch automatically and stay on long enough for our team to provide longer temporary power, or for the grid to come back.”
The manual bypass allows the DPW team to provide backup power from an external source like a battery bank, a DPW vehicle or a solar trailer. Then the team created an automated transfer method for backup power.
“This is not only a cost-saver, but a life-saver for Fort Hood. If we were to lose power at an intersection, during the lunch rush, it would be chaos,” Campagna said. “But if we lost power now, this automated UPS takes care of the problem. Soldiers wouldn’t see a difference as the UPS continues intersection operations.”
Through extensive research and testing on their mock traffic simulator, the team developed a solution to create an automated UPS at a fraction of the $15,000 industry market price.
“The guts of our UPS is from the RV (recreational vehicle) industry. These are all off-the-shelf, readily available components,” Justo Andaluz, electronics technician, DPW, said. “Nothing here is traffic specific. The traffic cabinet does not care as long as it gets power.”
Although the batteries for the UPS require minimal maintenance and are guaranteed to last up to 80 percent of maximum capacity for 10 years, the DPW team regularly inspects every traffic cabinet quarterly to ensure the system and internal components.
Santiago’s innovative, energy resilient solution to the traffic signals recently earned him recognition, Oct. 21, by Brian Dosa, Fort Hood's DPW director. Dosa highlighted the amazing work the 400 people in DPW do every day, and then pointed out Santiago’s accomplishments as the DPW Wage Grade Employee of the Quarter.
“When the power goes out and light doesn’t work, it creates chaos. Typically, if the power comes back on, the light is blinking red and that doesn’t go very well when you have so much traffic trying to go through the intersection,” Dosa said. “Israel and the team do a tremendous job keeping and maintaining all those things. We said maybe we can do better with our traffic intersections. Israel was key to developing a backup power system in the traffic cabinet itself. We are going to take that idea and move it to do other key intersections across Fort Hood.”
With the success of the first automated UPS at T.J. Mills and Tank Destroyer boulevards, the DPW team has developed a plan to enhance Fort Hood’s energy resilience. Internal components for four additional automated systems will arrive soon, and efforts will continue into the New Year to install the automated UPS at all high traffic intersections.
“These lessons learned and successes need to be shared with others,” Campagna said. “With these tools, military installations can do their part to enhance the safety of our Soldiers and their Families, and have confidence the traffic lights won’t go dark during an outage.”