DOD gives high priority to saving energy

  • Published
  • By Cheryl Pellerin
  • American Forces Press Service
The Defense Department has made saving energy a priority in everything it does, the deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment said Sept. 29.

Dorothy Robyn manages and oversees permanent military installations worldwide and manages installations programs that involve energy, the environment, safety and occupational health. She spoke here at the 2011 Washington Energy Summit, whose theme was Powering Cities of the Future.

"We are committed to improving our energy performance for mission reasons, (and) we're taking energy into account in everything we do," Robyn said.

Saving energy is a force multiplier, she added. And because the Defense Department is a technology leader, she said, "we think we can be a solutions multiplier in the country's effort to wage an energy revolution."

The Defense Department is the single largest energy consumer in the United States, accounting for about 90 percent of the federal government's energy use, Robyn said.

"Our bill last year was $15 billion, and three quarters of that was for operational energy fuel," she said, referring to the fuel used to operate tanks, ships and planes and run generators at forward operating bases.

The part of the bill Robyn worries about, she said, is $4 billion a year, mostly for electricity spent to power 300,000 buildings on DOD installations -- barracks and data centers and offices and hospitals -- and to operate 200,000 vehicles. Permanent installations were once used mainly for training troops and deploying troops to theater, Robyn said.

"Increasingly, particularly in a post-9/11 world, we provide direct support for military operations from our domestic bases -- we fly (for example) ... unmanned aerial vehicles from installations in the United States. We fly long-range bombers sometimes and we analyze battlefield data in real time," she said. Meanwhile, she added, U.S. military installations are almost entirely dependent on a commercial electric grid that experts say is vulnerable to disruption.

"We care about energy because we want to make our critical operations more secure against potential disruption to the grid," Robyn said.

The Defense Department's three-part energy strategy, she said, is to reduce demand for traditional energy, expand the supply of renewable and other alternative energy, and in other ways address the energy security of its installations.

Expanding the supply of alternative energy sources is not new to the department, Robyn said.

The 270-megawatt China Lake geothermal facility at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake in California was established in 1987, she said, and since 2007, Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada has operated the nation's largest photovoltaic array -- a form of solar energy that provides more than 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

In Hawaii, Navy officials announced a contract of up to $500 million for use by all of the services for solar energy projects, she said, and the Army has just created an Energy Initiatives Office that will focus on major utility-scale renewable energy projects.

"The Army has by far the biggest facilities in the country," Robyn said.

To improve energy security at military bases, she said, the Defense Department is working with companies such as General Electric and Lockheed Martin on projects involving microgrid and smart grid technology.

"Microgrid is a triple play," Robyn said. "It's a set of self-generated electricity and controls that allow us to operate more efficiently ... in a normal mode but [also to] facilitate the incorporation of solar, wind (and) other forms of renewable energy.

"And most important, if the grid goes down it will allow us to prioritize and continue to operate activities that are most critical," Robyn added.

The Defense Department's assessment and use of such technologies, she said, will spur the private sector to more quickly commercialize such technology.

The department is "uniquely positioned," Robyn said, "to help get some of those technologies commercialized so that we can go on and buy them as another commercial customer and use them in our buildings."

Technologies that are demonstrated to be effective for the Defense Department, she added, are "likely to work for the rest of the country."