TDM’s Brief Retech Recap

In support of DoD Power, Energy & Propulsion, our magazine focusing on the military’s operational energy needs, Tactical Defense Media headed to RETECH 2013. Held annually in the DC area, RETECH works hard to inform the renewables industry on federal government and military energy requirements that they can fill. Here’s a short list of some comments we found interesting.

USAF Perspective

In the conference’s opening session, Douglas Tucker, Senior Facilities Energy Engineer, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics, discussed the USAF’s requirements. He reinforced the idea that efficiency is critical—particularly in forward-deployed bases—while noting that in CONUS facilities are so diverse that one renewable energy standard for the whole service is very difficult to achieve. Moreover, he said, renewable energy must be “cost competitive and reliable.”

Though the USAF spends roughly $8 billion on fuel compared to $1 billion on installation power, Mr. Tucker spoke positively about renewable energy incentives that allow the USAF to “put our money [towards things] other than installation energy.” The service continues to work towards net metering and vehicle to grid technology (specifically at Los Angeles Air Force Base). One major efficiency project is data center consolidation. According to Tucker, the Air Force is looking at a more “holistic approach” to eliminate waste.

The DoD’s Net Zero Progress

Paul Volkman, CEM, Energy Program Manager, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment), went over the Army’s Net Zero plans. He reminded us that there is an “interconnectedness between water, energy, and waste,” which is why the three categories comprise the Net Zero program. The Army seeks to generate as much energy as it uses through the following ways (in order of importance): reduction, efficiency, recovery, cogeneration, and renewable energy generation. These are major goals, with Timothy Long of Energy Surety noting that microgrids and storage will be essential to success. The Army is working with the Department of Energy on “culture change issues” to impress on its personnel the importance of Net Zero.

According to Mr. Volkman, the pilot programs are going well (with some achieving up to and above 80% of their goals) and are popular (some bases are doing more than they are required, while the Oregon National Guard is going totally net zero energy), and the next step will be to take the Net Zero program to all Army facilities. Volkman also said the Army is addressing the challenge of “non-market valuation” (aka, putting a price on security) and the potential for ideas on net zero to translate to forward-operating bases in the future.

Biofuels and the Military

Chris Tindal of the Navy gave every indication that his service would stay on the path to developing cost-competitive biofuels despite the uproar from Congress last year. Another “Great Green Fleet” demonstration is planned for 2016. Biofuel development for the Navy, he stressed (in the same vein as the abovementioned Army and Air Force officials), is “all about energy security. We want to try to get away from the volatility of [both] pricing and availability…” Through the Defense Production Act, the government selected four companies to present proposals for biofuel plants (the companies will match the government’s $16 million investment). In 2014, those companies selected (which could be all four) will actually construct the plants. The feedstocks will not come from human and livestock food, and the goal is to get about 170 million gallons at less than $4/gallon.

Moreover, Tindal said the Navy will be testing of alcohol-to-jet and catalytic hydrolysis fuels (with ASTM approval coming before Mil Spec development). The Navy also mentioned that, with the Defense Logistics Agency, there will be a solicitation for fuels in near future that includes a biofuel annex. In other words, biofuels will be allowed to be in the fuel mix as drop-in replacements. “We’re not going to treat [biofuels] in any way special” regarding storage, he said.