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Posted 10/29/2012

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By Bernard Tate

“Bottom line, we want to save money, save lives and provide safe, reliable energy.”

That was Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick’s message at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition on Oct. 24.  Bostick, who is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanding general, spoke on energy sustainability to a group that packed the Army Forum in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Sustainability is an umbrella concept that deals with increasing the Army’s effectiveness by reducing its use of energy and impact to the climate and environment.  Bostick spoke about the Corps’ efforts to support the Army Energy Initiatives.

“Ultimately, we’re striving to meet the energy, water and waste reduction targets as directed by the federal government,” Bostick said.  “On the operational energy side, we’re working with warfighters to increase mission effectiveness by providing safe, reliable, efficient power at forward operating bases.  At installations, the Army needs to increase its use of renewable energy through collaboration with the private sector.  Our Army goal is 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.”

Bostick outlined the need for renewable energy for the Army in the field.  He told the group that 70 to 80 percent of the resupply weight in theater is fuel and water.  Eighteen percent of the casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom were related to ground resupply.  “A reduction in fuel and water demand will reduce the number of convoys and allow Soldiers to accomplish other tasks,” Bostick said.  “So what we’re doing has a direct correlation and importance to the operational fight.”

Bostick outlined two USACE operations that support troops in the field, the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) and the Virtual FOB (forward operating base).

He called the 249th “a crown jewel of the Army and the country.”  The 249th has 13 platoons that can provide electric power to run 16 separate 1,200 man base camps.

“But mostly they work with our combatant commanders,” Bostick said.  “They provide technical assistance, assistance with design, and how to optimize power plants and the distribution networks.”

The Virtual FOB software was developed by the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory.

“We’re trying to be more technologically savvy about operating a FOB,” Bostick said.  “The Virtual FOB is a virtual software system that will let our commanders and staff sort out what their FOB will look like before they build it.  Ultimately, in the joint world, we’re working with our partners to make sure that this goes into the Joint Construction Design so there will be standard designs as we go into theater.”

Bostick stated that what USACE does on a small scale in contingency operations is being applied on Army installations.

“We have several initiatives ongoing that are very important to the Army,” Bostick said.  “NetZero is one that we’re working aggressively.  We have 18 pilot sites.  Six are going to net zero in water, six to net zero in energy, and six to net zero in waste.”  He added that Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Bliss, Texas; and the Oregon National Guard are going to net zero in all three categories.

Bostick also discussed two major energy initiatives for Army installations, the renewable energy Multiple Award Task Order Contracts (MATOC) and Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPC), both managed by the Corps’ U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville.

The MATOC is a pool of pre-qualified contractors that USACE can tap to award multiple energy contracts.

“Huntsville Center issued a $7 billion request for proposal and 600 individuals participated in an industry forum in August,” Bostick said.  “Those proposals are now under review.  Essentially, we’ll agree to provide land for their systems and purchase renewable energy for a 30-year period, and they will produce renewable energy for Army installations.”

The ESPCs enable agencies to improve energy efficiency through private investments in more efficient systems such as lights, power plants and water and steam distribution.  The Army reimburses the energy contractor through the resulting annual energy savings.

“In the past three months Huntsville Center has awarded six projects for a combined capital investment of $90 million,” Bostick said.  “They include the Army’s largest solar panel system that generates 4.5 megawatts at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and the Army’s first wind power system at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico that will save 3,244 MBtu per year.”  (An MBtu is 1,000 British thermal units.)

Bostick ended his speech by saying the USACE is the program manager for the Central Army Metering program.

“In order to know whether or not that we’re making progress with the systems we’ve put in, we have to measure against the goals.  Our mission there is to install advanced meters on active Army, Army Reserve and National Guard Facilities.

“So in a nutshell, we’ve invested a lot of human energy in energy initiatives, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” Bostick concluded.  “It’s going to be a team effort of all of us working together, and this is really exciting for our military.”

249th engineering battalion army energy Energy huntsville center sustainability