Army boosts installation resilience, combat readiness by investing in new energy technologies

By John Bell, Office of the DCS, G-9March 28, 2023

DCS, G-9 Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen addresses the Operational Energy Summit March 20, 2023, in Reston, Va.
DCS, G-9 Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen addresses the Operational Energy Summit March 20, 2023, in Reston, Va. (Photo Credit: Alyx Riebeling, US Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

RESTON, Va. — Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations (G-9), highlighted the Army’s investments in microgrids, electric vehicles, infrastructure, renewable energy and other innovations making Army installations and the operational force more resilient during his March 15 keynote address at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement’s 15th Annual Operational Energy Summit.

Army installations must be energy resilient to support Army operations and deployments, and to sustain an environment where Soldiers, families and Army civilians can train, work and live, Vereen said. He explained that investing in installation resilience allows the United States to project power from the homeland, supports defense-critical infrastructure and capabilities, and helps mitigate risks to our forces.

Operational energy is defined by the 10 USC 2924 as the energy required for training, moving and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms for military operations. This includes energy used by installations to support military operations. Energy is a key enabler for Army installations that double as power-projection platforms.

“Projecting power requires energy resilience,” said Vereen. “Facility and energy resilience are essential to our ability to fight and win wars. This is why the Army is moving rapidly to ensure resilience, so we may maintain the operational advantage.”

One way to increase energy resilience and maintain the operational advantage is by moving to a greater share of zero-emission vehicles in the Army’s non-tactical vehicle fleet, according to Vereen.

Army Climate Strategy objectives include fielding an all-electric, non-tactical vehicle fleet by 2035. The use of electric vehicles increases energy efficiency and reduces the Army’s reliance on petroleum.

The Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations (G-9) is responsible for implementing the Army Climate Strategy and for managing the non-tactical vehicle program.

The Army’s goal for the next fiscal year is to order more than 2,000 zero-emission vehicles with continued yearly increases as more models become available. Electric vehicles are just one way the Army is working to meet the goals of the Army Climate Strategy, Vereen noted.

The electrification of the Army’s vehicle fleet requires the Army to move swiftly to ensure infrastructure, like charging stations, are in place at pace with the arrival of this new fleet.

“Electric charging stations are being built in concert with the acquisition of the electric vehicle fleet, ensuring immediate usability of these new technologies,” Vereen said.

The Army Climate Strategy outlines hazards from climate change, including the impacts of extreme weather events to installations and military operations. As extreme weather continues to threaten and damage military infrastructure, the Army is working to ensure its installations can withstand greater amounts of precipitation, shifting temperature extremes, rising water levels and shrinking coastlines.

Weather events pose increasing challenges to installation resilience due to the age of many Army facilities. Army Installations must have assured access to energy and water to enhance mission readiness and to be prepared to conduct mission critical operations.

“Many facilities on Army installations were built in the 1960s and are showing their age,” Vereen said. “These facilities are required to far outlive their 50-year life expectancy.”

The Army is investing in new and resilient infrastructure to reduce the risks from relying on aging facilities.

“The Army is actively working to build infrastructure that reduces water and energy consumption and conserves water and energy resources,” Vereen said. “The Army has made remarkable achievements in water and energy resilience in a short amount of time.”

The Army is also addressing the need for energy resilience by increasing the use of microgrids. The Army Climate Strategy established an objective to install a microgrid on every installation by 2035. The Army currently has 28 operational microgrids, with nine more under construction and18 in the design phase.

A microgrid is a local electrical system that can be disconnected from the power grid to operate independently during outages. Microgrids help installations increase their energy independence, Vereen said.

Another key tool the Army is using to increase efficiency and energy resilience are carbon-free electricity projects, which use renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind energy.

Vereen pointed out that in fiscal year 2022 the Army awarded 13 new CFE projects, which will generate 53 megawatts of new CFE. In the same period, the Army obtained almost 45% of its electricity from CFE sources.

The Army is also exploring ways to increase its capacity to re-use and store the renewable energy generated by these CFE sources on Army installations.

Acquiring these new technologies and improving and building new infrastructure depend on a reliable supply chain. Unfortunately, as a results of the pandemic, the supply chains have been less predictable, and costs have risen.

These supply chain challenges mean the Army must work even more closely with community partners and industry to establish innovative partnerships that help installations become more efficient, Vereen said.

One example of how communities have come together already is the partnership between Redstone Arsenal and the Tennessee Valley Authority's Federal Energy Services Program to separate 27 buildings from Redstone’s central steam distribution system. The project saves the garrison $1.5 million in annual energy and maintenance costs.

Additionally, in North Carolina the Army awarded a $36 million contract to Duke Energy to build a 1.1-megawatt floating solar photovoltaic system on Fort Bragg to support a remote Special Forces training site, saving the service over $2 million in utility costs.

The Army is also using other innovative ways to increase energy efficiency and resilience, such as working with local and state utility companies to privatize utility operations. Privatization provides new utility infrastructure and management capabilities that allow Army commanders to focus time and resources on their operational missions.

The Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations (G-9) manages the Army’s Utilities Privatization Program. The program leverages private-sector expertise and financing to restore utility systems and sustain them at full capability and to industry standards.

The Army is making every effort to ensure installation resilience, which not only allows for power projection, but also ensures a high quality of life for Soldiers and families through a variety of innovative energy and water resilience efforts, Vereen said.

Lt. Gen. Vereen called on industry and community leaders in the audience to work with the Army to develop new technologies and partnerships that will help the Army continue its steady progress.

“We have to collaborate effectively to enhance efficiencies and find solutions that are mutually beneficial," he said.

Vereen concluded his remarks with a final call for stakeholders to partner with the Army.

“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We rely on great minds across all branches of military, industry, and academia. Together we can leverage the latest technologies and the greatest minds to ensure our Soldiers are equipped for the fight.”