New lab aims to save energy at base camps

By Brian GebhartJuly 26, 2011

SIL Base Camp
The Base Camp System Integration Laboratory, or SIL, will enable the Army and the joint services to evaluate future technologies in a live Soldier environment, providing solutions to reduce the energy demand and logistical burden on base camps in Afg... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 20, 2011) -- A System Integration Laboratory opened June 24, 2011, at Fort Devens, Mass., to test futuristic technologies aimed at creating more energy-efficient base camps.

The 10-acre System Integration Laboratory, or SIL, will measure water, fuel and power usage at a site that is modeled after forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Within the SIL there are two 150-Soldier sets, side by side. Each will be occupied with 150 active-component and reserve-component Soldiers for a few weeks or months at a time.

One section on Fort Devens -- a control group -- will shadow standard expeditionary bases such as Force Provider. The second section -- a test group -- will be almost identical to the first, while integrating new technologies to collect real-time data.

These technologies include energy-efficient shelters and water-filtration and reuse systems. Planning is underway to look at alternative energy sources including wind and solar power, said Lt. Col. Daryl Harger, product manager, Force Sustainment Systems.

“We’re seeing promising results from the micro-grid already,” said Harger. “We’re excited about the technology, but we also want to take a structured approach and make sure the results we get are valuable and true.”

As data is collected, information from the components and systems of each camp will be compared to measure effectiveness of new technologies, Harger said.

Once technologies are proven effective, officials said the SIL will share them with currently deployed and future expeditionary forces for implementation. Plans call for Force Sustainment Systems and other SIL partners to share findings with sister services and other interested Department of Defense parties.

While parts of the project have currently been running, the SIL at Fort Devens is expected to be fully operational by Aug. 1, 2011, according to Harger.

"The Systems Integration Lab's opening comes at a time when all of the Department of Defense is taking a hard look at our energy requirements at home and on our overseas contingency bases," said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

“The Army is focused on five goals: reducing energy consumption, increasing energy efficiency across platforms and facilities, increasing our use of renewable and alternative energy; assuring access to sufficient energy supplies today and in the future, and reducing adverse impacts on the environment. The SIL will give us the data we need to deploy solutions in a cost-effective manner,” she said.

The steps to produce efficiencies at the SIL also compliment those of the "Net Zero" strategy. Under a pilot program, a number of installations are focused on reducing energy, water and waste, aiming toward net-zero consumption by 2020.

Hammack said that through innovation, adaptation, exploration and evaluation, “We are creating a culture that recognizes the value of energy sustainability, measured not just in terms of financial benefits, but benefits to maintaining mission capability, quality of life, relationships with local communities and the preservation of options for the Army’s future. It is operationally necessary and financially prudent.”

“Everything that we learn and implement in our permanent installations in regard to Net Zero operations can be leveraged into contingency basing strategy to reduce the consumption of fuel and water,” said Hammack.

The new energy-efficient technologies are expected to reduce base camp fuel requirements by 20 percent or more and up to 75 percent of water demand.

“We’re very excited to get it up and running,” Harger said about the new lab. “It’s a great opportunity for the Army.”

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Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment