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Army summit attracts potential energy investors

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 04, 2011) -- The Army's Energy Initiatives Task Force, which stood up in September to accomplish the Army's energy goals, hosted a summit Nov. 3 to bring in interested private-sector investors together to learn about the Army's way ahead on energy independence.

The Army's looking to reduce its dependency on foreign oil, but it's also looking to increase the "resilience" of its installations through renewable energy development.

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"We need to increase the resilience of our installations," said Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the army for installations, energy and environment. "Many of our installations are at the end of the line, they are in fairly remote locations. That means if anything happens up stream, our fallback is diesel generators. We'd like to increase our resiliency by having generation on the installations."

To meets its energy goals, the Army is hoping industry will be willing to invest as much as $7.1 billion dollars over ten years on installations to develop renewable energy projects.

"There are a lot of people interested," said Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment. Hammack said as many as 250 companies were represented at the summit. Interest was so high, she said, that registration for the event closed in only four hours. A subsequent registration closed in six hours.

"We're looking at, by 2025, we want 25 percent of our energy to come from renewable sources," she explained. "We're looking at a ten-year window, a specific amount of energy that we want generated. We're not just saying projects starting, or projects under construction, but we want to be generating that much energy."

To accomplish the 25-percent goal, the Army will need 2.1 million megawatt hours a year of renewable energy through collaboration with the private sector.

Some projects are already underway, Hammack said. There are multiple renewable energy projects at Fort Bliss, Texas, for instance. There's also work being done now on solar projects at Fort Irwin, Calif. She said the EITF will help installations with projects underway to accelerate those projects.

"We're not starting from zero," Hammack said. "Right now there's 20 different projects in the pipeline that are under evaluation."

She said the EITF will help installations develop such projects because developing renewable energy options for military installations is really outside the scope of what installation management is equipped to do.

"What we want them to focus on is operating [an installation] and supporting Soldiers and their families," Hammack said. "When we have a need for something above and beyond, like large-scale renewables, it exceeds both their capacity and capabilities. The EITF was stood up to augment our garrison commanders, to augment our installations and provide them with the skills and resources they need to have large-scale renewables on the installations."

Richard G. Kidd, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability, said the summit, which was held at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., "went very well. We are really trying to signal that the Army is serious about this."

Kidd said there was some "dynamic tension" at the summit, however, because the Army could not be as open about the specifics of the acquisition process as it would like to be, but said the strategy is under development.

"We are committed to rolling out the particulars of the acquisition details as rapidly as we can, in a manner that preserves procurement integrity," he said. "The last thing we want is to do something wrong on the acquisition process and have to start over."

The EITF will hold a follow-on conference in the spring.

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