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New Army office focuses on energy diversity, security

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 04, 2008) -- The Army recently established the Energy and Partnership Office to not only conserve energy, but also to reduce the Army's dependence on the civilian power grid.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Partnerships Paul Bollinger serves as head of the office. As the Army's senior energy executive, Bollinger is responsible for implementing the service's energy security strategy on an enterprise approach.

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"If we were attacked, or there was a terrible act of nature -- and our Soldiers were called out into the community to either defend or protect -- they need their installation operating," Bollinger said. "You also have critical infrastructure there, hospitals, communications, you may have munitions, and you may need electricity to pump fuel."

Energy security means that an Army installation can still provide power to its most critical operations, even if the civilian power grid is completely down. For the Army to accomplish that, it first needs to know the total energy consumption of each installation as a baseline, Bollinger said. It must determine the most important parts of the mission that need to be powered. Those two pieces of information, coupled with an effort to reduce energy usage through improved efficiency, is how he said the Army plans to gain energy security on its installations.

"We're at the starting line right now for most installations," Bollinger said. "However, we have six installations with coal-fired power plants, so they may be energy secure already."

Right now the Army is conducting studies to determine how much energy is being used on its installations.

"What we have to do is come up with the baselines or the benchmarks for our energy activities," Bollinger said. "That should include the consumption rate at all installations and what programs are in place to reduce consumption and utilize alternative energy resources. In addition, there are federal laws that require all of our buildings to be metered by 2012. All new Army buildings are metered, but we have some work to do in order to get older buildings retrofitted for meters."

Bollinger also said the Army is working to meet the federal requirement in Executive Order 13423 to reduce energy consumption by 3% per year for 10 years. He said leadership at the Army's Installation Management Command is making great strides in this area, but hopes that the new Army energy initiative will give their efforts a major boost.

Reducing energy usage and increasing energy efficiency on Army posts are not enough to provide energy security, however. Army bases must also be able to generate their own power for their most critical missions, if called on to do so.

Developing facilities that can power the needs of the Army and at the same time draw on renewable resources is something the Army isn't going to tackle alone.

"This is a partnership with the private sector," Bollinger said. "We are inviting them to come in and assist us in reaching our goal of energy security. The Army is taking a leadership role and is committed to making our installations energy secure and reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- we call that smart energy."

The Army currently has several ongoing energy projects, including the solar projects at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Fort Carson, Colo., and large-scale energy-management programs at Fort Hood, Texas. Recently, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren announced several pilot energy projects: the development of a 500-megawatt solar thermal plant at Fort Irwin, Calif.; a 30Mw geothermal plant at Hawthorne Army Depot, Nev.; and biomass-to-fuel demonstrations at six Army posts; a giant Energy Savings Performance Contract for an entire installation; and, the purchase of 4,000 Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, or NEVs, that will be sent to 44 installations.

The secretary also said he wants the Army to look at wind energy and nuclear power to make garrisons' energy secure.

"We have to be able to protect our country regardless of the situation," Bollinger said. "There may be a premium paid for energy security, but it is a premium with a huge payback when it comes to defending our country."

The Energy and Partnership Office implements policy set by the Army's recently established Senior Energy Council. The council focuses on energy and how to minimize its impact on warfighting capability and operational effectiveness both in theater and in the United States. The goal is to reduce energy consumption, increase energy efficiency and provide energy security for the Army. The council is co-chaired by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations and Environment Keith Eastin and Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli.

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