Heather Lammers, NREL
April 26, 2013 | 10 Comments
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Check off a list in your head of the government organizations that play a role in the security of the United States. The Department of Defense (DoD) and Homeland Security probably come to mind, as well as the CIA or FBI. While the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) may not even make the list, in fact, the national laboratory is doing its part to help provide energy security and reduce energy costs for the military as an energy advisor to DoD and, in this case, the U.S. Navy.
"NREL is uniquely positioned to support DoD's mission to reduce energy costs, decrease reliance on foreign oil, and ensure energy security," NREL's Director Dan Arvizu said. "Our experience in demonstrating and validating innovative energy technologies is critical to their mission success."
DoD accounts for 80% of federal energy use, and it spent $19.4 billion on energy in 2011. NREL is currently focused on helping slash the 21% of DoD energy costs that are spent to operate DoD installations around the world.
"DoD is the biggest energy user in the United States. NREL and DoD's missions are not the same, but they do complement one another," DoD Energy Program Director Steve Gorin said. "The military's mission is operational excellence, and the cost of energy has been a huge variable that they can't predict. Anytime the price of oil goes up or anytime there is a grid outage, it impacts how they accomplish their mission. In the case of NREL, our mission is to innovate and to work with others to get technologies out there and transform the energy economy. Put the two together, and you have an early adopter with a huge market working alongside an energy innovator."
To put into perspective how large a facilities energy consumer DoD is, consider that it has:
DoD realizes that relying on a singular national energy grid puts its facilities and critical infrastructure at risk. So the Navy and NREL are looking for solutions to meet the Navy's ambitious energy goals, which include: evaluating energy efficiency and use when awarding Navy contracts for systems and buildings; increasing alternative energy use on shore by producing at least 50% of shore-based energy from alternative sources; ensuring that 50% of Navy and Marine Corps installations will be net-zero energy.
"Energy security is a key priority for the Department of Navy [DoN] and the way we conduct future operations for our warfighter and for our fleet," said Tom Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy. "We look forward to our partnership with NREL as it helps us meet our energy goals."
"NREL is excited to help the Navy advance its energy goals by providing test beds to demonstrate energy technologies," Gorin said. "We believe a few things can happen. First, we can make an impact by helping the nation's single largest energy user be more efficient. This will reduce risk to the military when adopting new technology, and it will help it meet energy goals through demonstrations and then replication. Finally, helping organizations like the Naval Facilities Engineering Command [NAVFAC] to be early adopters of these technologies will help to catalyze civilian commercialization."
Work Begins on Hawaii and Guam
The NREL-Navy partnership began in August 2011 as part of a $20-million project focused on improving energy security. "These investments are for projects for near-commercial technologies that will be cost efficient for DoN," said Hicks.
The project is expected to last two and a half years and will be carried out in three phases.
From the beginning, NREL and the Navy formed an integrated team to seamlessly manage the demonstration projects. Formally known as an Integrated Product Team, an IPT is a multidisciplinary group of people who are collectively responsible for delivering project outcomes.
During the first phase of the partnership, NREL worked to identify what technologies would help meet Navy energy goals, along with the best locations to demonstrate them. The Navy specified that at least one demo must happen on Hawaii and another on Guam. In the end, eight technologies were chosen for demonstration with roughly half at each location. The technologies are now being installed and studied to see which are viable. The final phase will be to report on the technologies and help transition them to other sites and the commercial market.
"These technologies are near commercial, but not yet widely available," NREL Principal Investigator Jeff Dominick said. "We plan to demonstrate these technologies under rigorous test conditions and evaluate performance with an emphasis on cost savings and energy security."
Saving Energy, Money at the Home and Office
The technologies being installed fall into three general categories: advanced HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), building efficiency, and advanced renewables and facility integration.
"The support of NAVFAC Pacific and the component commands of NAVFAC Hawaii and NAVFAC Marianas were instrumental on this project. Their planning, engineering and construction expertise to NREL helped ensure the demonstration projects were realized," said Scott Mauro, energy/sustainability lead for the office of NAVFAC's Chief Engineer. "The projects selected have broad application to DoD facilities, and through this partnership with NREL, we continue to improve our ability to assess and implement shore energy technologies. These infrastructure improvements will lower total ownership cost to our supported commanders, in support of the Navy's energy goal to increase the use of alternative energy ashore."
In helping the Navy improve its energy use, NREL is looking to cut the intensive HVAC use on bases. The teams will install a variety of advanced HVAC demonstrations, including energy-saving retrofit kits that can go on an existing rooftop air conditioner on a warehouse or office space. The team will also test a high-efficiency rooftop unit that, depending on the building type or climate, provides a possible second solution for energy savings.
"It's a partnership, so we want to give DoD options. Depending on site-specific conditions, we can decide if it makes more sense to swap out the unit or do a retrofit," Gorin said. "Because of the size, number, and geographic distribution of facilities DoD operates, it won't be a one-size-fits-all solution."
The final demo in the HVAC category uses liquid desiccant to dehumidify the air and reduce the amount of both conventional air conditioning and potential reheating that would be needed to make the space comfortable.