Installations making progress toward 'Net Zero' by 2020

By C. Todd LopezJanuary 23, 2012

Bases steer toward Net Zero status by 2020
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

CHICAGO (Army News Service, Jan. 19, 2012) -- Around the Army installations are testing renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic panels and using technology such as sensors to find water leaks.

Representatives from 18 installations attended the Army's Net Zero Energy Installations Conference here to brief their progress in decreasing energy use, reducing their use of water, and eliminating waste sent to landfills.

Kristine M. Kingery, director of Army sustainability policy, which is part of the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability, said pilot installations in the program are "striving toward" goals the Army wants them to meet by 2020.

"The pilot installations also are the places where we want to do tests," she said. "Some of the stuff may work, or may not work. What we may find out in this is we get 80 percent toward a goal in one place, and by getting that we achieve what we want to achieve."


One of the things the Army wants to achieve is energy security. That means an Army installation can keep on with its mission, even if outside power is gone. To get there, an installation must first reduce its own energy consumption, through efficiency, and then produce its own power using renewable sources to meet its needs.

"With Net Zero, the idea is not just replace the energy with renewables," Kingery said. "It's the reduction, the repurposing, conservation and efficiency. Reduce usage, and replace what you are using with renewables."

One installation that is a pilot in that area is Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.

"The first step is the culture change," said Todd Dirmeyer, the Fort Hunter Liggett and Camp Parks energy manger. He said that means command buy-in as well as buy-in from Soldiers and the community -- he said he's got command buy-in at Hunter Liggett.

The second part of achieving Net Zero energy at Hunter Liggett will mean energy conservation.

"We have to learn what our demand is now -- we just can't model renewables against that and call it Net Zero and we're good," he said. "There's not enough financial assets in the Army or third party financing to get all that done. So we have to draw that consumption down, by getting rid of waste."

Dirmeyer said conservation efforts could mean new technology like occupancy sensors for lights, hot water through solar, sealing buildings to avoid losing heat, or using more daylight to illuminate building interiors. Even a Soldier turning off a light when he leaves the room makes "a huge difference," Dirmeyer said. "As you start adding those little things up, they become big things."

The goal for Hunter Liggett now is a 30-percent reduction in energy use by 2015, he said. The installation is moving slowly toward that goal now. "We're in the crawl stage now. We'll get to the walk stage in three to six months."

Reduction of energy use is only part of the Net Zero equation. An installation must also make as much energy as it uses.

"That's when we do the renewables," Dirmeyer said. "We've got one megawatt of installed solar power that's currently under construction. We have another megawatt of installed solar power that is just about ready to be awarded."

The installation has mounted solar photovoltaic panels above parking structures to generate power, Dirmeyer said. The installation of solar power generation will bring about 400 kilowatts of renewable energy to the base, and help them cut some of the 2.7 megawatts it currently takes from the grid. That change will help them get about 15 percent toward their goal.

Other renewables being considered at Hunter Liggett include concentrated solar, where a concave mirror is used to heat a "liquid media," that can then be used to generate power.

"It can offset some of our thermal loads," Dirmeyer said. "Right now we have barracks heated by propane and diesel." Part of the Net Zero goal is to push thermal power "off the table," he said. That means elimination of fossil fuels such as diesel and propane.

Hunter Liggett is also planning exploration of geothermal energy. Dirmeyer said the Navy's Seebees will drill a well to help in that exploration.

Dirmeyer said he is proud Hunter Liggett was chosen to be a pilot installation for Net Zero energy, and said success in the program will require passion and commitment from all involved.

"A lot of commanders have bigger things to worry about, that's where energy managers have to get in the back pocket of the commander and make him the champion of the program," Dirmeyer said. "The key to all this is you have to be very passionate about this stuff. You have to believe in the cause. There are a lot of people that will tell you it won't happen. But truly the Army is leading the nation in this effort, and we are going to lead the nation to energy security."

To help Net Zero energy pilot installations achieve their goals, the Army is now working with installations on doing energy audits that will help them identify projects they can undertake in reduction, Kingery said.

Also, Kingery said, the Army is working with installations to do "renewable assessments" to "look at the possible blend of renewable energies that could come into play." Additionally, the Army is trying to develop an energy "roadmap" for installations that is supposed to be done by the end of September, "to help try to set out a plan for actions that they can take toward Net Zero by 2020."


"We are trying to minimize the amount of water we are drawing out, we are trying to reuse, we are trying to recycle -- to repurpose the water," Kingery said. "So we are trying to look at how we are using water."

Water balance studies, Kingery said, will help the Army understand what the water requirements are for an installation, and what is coming in. And while Army installations use meters to determine how much water they are bringing on base, they haven't yet metered individual buildings -- though they know how much water is going into their wastewater treatment facilities.

Net Zero water means returning to the environment as much water as is taken out of the environment. It also means using less water in the first place.

"One of the biggest things for us is our leak-detection system," said Thomas Wildoner Jr., an environmental protection specialist at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa.

Tobyhanna is one of the pilot installations for Net Zero water.

Wildoner said a new system at Tobyhanna uses acoustical sensors to listen for the sound of leaks in their water supply system.

"A small leak sounds like a whistling noise from high pressure (through a) small hole," he said. "A larger leak sounds like a gurgling pipe."

So far, he said, they've found four small leaks and two medium sized leaks using the system. Before the installation of the system, a company came out and did an acoustical survey to establish a baseline for the sensor system -- and that survey found leaks that were wasting 40 gallons of fresh water a minute.

The sensors are just part of the effort at Tobyhanna to reduce water waste at that industrial installation, and to reduce the amount of water the base uses overall.

At Tobyhanna, there's no irrigation, and no golf course to water. As an industrial site, all the water it takes in should be accounted for in the waste water it produces. So the amount of water it processes in its waste water facility should be equal to the amount of water it pulls from the ground.

"Twenty years ago, there was a 100-million-gallon difference between these two numbers," Wildoner said. "We didn't know where the 100 million gallons was going. At the end of fiscal year 2011, what we are bringing up out of the ground is roughly equal to what we are sending back into the environment. That's where we want to be."

Actually, Wildoner said, there's about a 7-percent difference between what they take out of the ground and what they process out as waste water. But the difference is that they are now actually producing more waste water than what they pull from the ground. That, he said, is due to water leaking into waste pipes.

Wildoner said to move forward at Tobyhanna, the installation must have a better understanding of where water is being used. Part of that can come from metering its industrial processes.

"Until you have a really good understanding of where it's being used, it's hard to come up with the technology to reduce that usage," he said.

By 2020, Tobyhanna is looking to achieve a 50-percent reduction of fresh water intake, compared to what it did in 2007.

So far they've found success in one of their facilities that manufactures, among other things, brackets to hold night vision goggles onto helmets. In the 1990s, that facility used about 2 million gallons of potable water a month, which was discharged into the sanitary sewer after use. Today, that same facility is included in a larger industrial operations facility that also does things such as painting and sandblasting. The new facility uses only about 330,000 gallons of potable water a month.

A lot of that savings comes from recycling the water used in the plating process there, Wildoner said.

"That waste water goes to a pretreatment plant where it is filtered. We use a reverse osmosis unit to recharge that water and send it right back to the plating shop, without having to retake potable water," he said.

Other efforts to reduce water usage at Tobyhanna include installation of a water chiller to cool air compressors -- previously, potable water was used to accomplish that task, and then, when the cool, potable water had chilled the compressors, it was dumped into the sewers. Today, the water is recycled in a closed loop, cooled, and then sent back to the air compressors.

Tobyhanna has gotten pretty close to their goal for 2020 -- in fact, Wildoner said, they've already reduced water usage by 34 percent.

"We're almost there," Wildoner said. They've taken the "low hanging fruit," and must now look at more complex solutions. They are using condensed water to fill tanks in "rain rooms" used to evaluate the waterproofness of electronic equipment, for instance. And soon, they will look at residential housing to find more possible gains..."

"Management has been behind this from the get go," Wildoner said. "They've been generous with projects. If we can come up with a project to save water and it shows a good payback and it's something that can reduce our rates we charge customers, they are behind it 100 percent -- because that's more work that can come into the depot."


"It's not just recycle as much as you can," said Kingery. "The idea is how do you limit stuff coming in? They are doing this materials flow study right now, looking at various products that are coming in, and looking at what is going into the landfill, trying to get a handle on what their waste streams are how can we reuse things."

The overall goal of Net Zero waste, Kingery said, is to bring down to almost zero what goes into landfills.

"We've come pretty darn close already," said Terry Austin, installation sustainability coordinator at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. "For municipal solid waste, we are close to the 70-percent mark."

At JBLM, that means that 70 percent of the garbage that would normally go off to the landfill is instead diverted somewhere else -- like recycling or reuse.

The installation also has an "aggressive composting operation," Austin said, that takes waste organics from food sources like the Commissary or the dining facility and incorporates that with things like storm debris and wood waste to make products like mulch for the installation.

JBLM actually started sustainability operations back in 2002, Austin said. One of the goals then was zero waste -- so they've been working on that for 10 years now. Helping them along, she said, is that JBLM is in the "sweet spot" of the Pacific Northwest, where surrounding communities are already working hard at waste reduction.

"Some of our bigger neighbors -- Seattle and so forth -- are very advanced in diversion and waste reduction, Austin said. "Given that, we had a tremendous stepping stone to launch our program back in 2002. We have done quite a bit in identifying what waste streams are going off post, and finding resources to make them diversion opportunities."

To get to a 100-percent diversion, she said, JBLM needs to "get our arms around green procurement."

In particular, she wants a culture where all the procurement agencies, from the contracting agency, to individual credit card holders, are making "the right choices" on product purchases. That means stuff that's made from recycled material, and products that can themselves easily be recycled.

"We need to be mindful of what we buy, what we bring into the mix," she said.

There is still stuff in the waste bins at JBLM, and because so much has already been diverted to recycling and reuse, Austin said she's not sure what that stuff is.

"We're doing a material flow analysis to see how we do buy things and who buys them and also going to do another waste survey to see what's in the dumpsters now," she said.

Austin said at JBLM they are also looking at ways to deal with construction waste -- which is different than municipal waste -- and finding ways for that to be reused by other construction projects.

Also, JBLM will look at waste-to-energy conversion -- "once you divert everything, that 30 percent remaining, there may not be a marketing opportunity to divert it. But it may have some energy potential that will help augment our energy requirement on the installation. That's what we're looking at now. We think there is energy potential that is untapped."


Kingery said the pilot installations involved now in the Army's Net Zero Installation Strategy are test cases to see what's possible. They are "striving toward" goals for 2020. By 2014, she said, an additional 25 installations will come on board in the program, and those installations will have a target year of 2030. The Army's overall goal is to reach Net Zero status in all three areas, for all installations, by 2050.

Related Links:

Plans underway for fort to reach 'Net Zero' waste by 2020

Net Zero conference begins in Chicago

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Environment and Energy - ASA(IE&E) Energy News

STAND-TO!: Net Zero