Army Green: More Than Just a Color

The U.S. Army relies on renewable energy and biomass power to become more energy-secure and resilient, while meeting its congressional mandates.
By Ron Kotrba | October 19, 2015

The U.S. Department of Defense is one of the largest single users of energy in the world and, as such, operates under congressional mandates and branch-specific goals to reduce consumption and increase renewables, including the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA requires the defense department to produce or procure 25 percent of all energy from renewables by 2025. A few years ago, the U.S. Army solicited bids for $7 billion in renewable energy contracts. In June, the Army published its strategic roadmap to future energy security and sustainability. Kathy Ahsing, the director of renewable energy programs at the Army’s Office of Energy Initiatives, tells Biomass Magazine that the Army views renewable energy as a key component to its energy security and sustainability strategy. “The Army is looking at renewable energy on our lands to increase resiliency and security for our missions when grid interruptions and outages occur, to ensure we can continue our operations,” she says. Ahsing adds that if the Army focuses on security and resiliency of its installations, then it will be able to achieve the mandates established by Congress.

Redstone Arsenal
In October 2014, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Alabama, in coordination with OEI and Redstone Arsenal, released a request for proposals (RFP) for a 25-MW biomass-fueled combined-heat-and-power (CHP) project. Redstone Arsenal is an Army garrison located in the Tennessee Valley in Madison County, Alabama. The installation has more than 70 tenant organizations including the U.S. Army Materiel Command, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. According to Terri Stover, public relations specialist with U.S. Army Garrison-Redstone Arsenal, the base occupies more than 38,000 acres and has 37,000 employees, 1,100 of whom are military (mostly officers) with 20,000 civilians and 16,000 contractors.

Sharon Greshem, program manager for the USACE Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreement Multiple Award Task Order Contract, oversees the $7 billion bids for renewable energy contracts. She tells Biomass Magazine that 94 companies have been awarded base contracts. These include 50 solar, six geothermal, 21 wind and 17 biomass companies.

Gresham says a series of destructive tornadoes hit the area in 2011, triggering the CHP project. “Redstone Arsenal was shut down for two or three weeks from the tornadoes,” she says. “If that happened again, the power and steam from the biomass CHP plant would allow this installation to keep all mission-critical infrastructure operating.” All power and steam produced by the 25-MW CHP plant will be used on the installation and will not be sold to the grid or to Tennessee Valley Authority’s transmission—from where Redstone Arsenal currently gets its power. The average power consumption at Redstone Arsenal is approximately 49 MW, with a peak load of 75 MW and a minimum load of 38 MW. The installation also issued an RFP last year for a large solar project to supplement power to the base.

The Army is still in the process of making a selection for the CHP project, Gresham says. The Army intends to execute a land-lease agreement and sign a 30-year PPA for the renewable heat and power at a price no higher than what it currently pays TVA. The contract will also include an escalation rate.

Fort Drum
Home to the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum is an Army installation in New York state with 37,000 soldiers and family members, and almost 4,000 civilians. The base encompasses more than 108,000 acres in Jefferson and Lewis Counties. Its average electricity load is around 20 MW with peak load at roughly 28 MW. In September 2014, ReEnergy Holdings LLC was awarded a 20-year PPA to supply 100 percent of the installation’s on-site electricity requirements from its 60-MW Black River biomass power plant. Fort Drum remains connected to the utility grid but, as part of the contract, ReEnergy is adding a substation intertie from the power plant, located within Fort Drum’s gates, to the base’s north and south substations. The substation intertie connections will allow Fort Drum to maintain mission-critical operations in case a system-wide outage occurs.

ReEnergy owns and operates eight biomass power plants in the Northeast with 300 MW of installed capacity. Larry Richardson, CEO, says the company acquired the Black River plant in 2011—then a shuttered coal plant—and 18 months and $35 million later, the converted plant was operational. “While doing the retrofit work and building our supply infrastructure with loggers in the region, we were going through the procurement process with Army,” Richardson tells Biomass Magazine. ReEnergy’s feedstock, mostly logging residues, is certified through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

ReEnergy began delivering 100 percent of Fort Drum’s power Nov. 1, 2014. Richardson says the two-year-plus award process was challenging. “We learned a lot, so did they,” he says. “It’s one of the first contracts to work all the way through the process from award through delivery.”

 Richardson says the nearly complete intertie is a complex engineering project. “We’re targeting mid-October to be delivering behind the meter to the Fort Drum substations,” he says. “In doing so, we’re creating a microgrid.” He says this was the largest renewable contract to date by the Army. “We think it’s truly a model of not only a renewable energy source but a secure energy source that’s inside the fence, capable of providing 100 percent of its energy needs,” Richardson says.

Schofield Barracks
At Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, the Army is prepared to lease roughly 10 acres to Hawaiian Electric Co. for construction of a 50-MW, multifuel power plant to be owned, operated and maintained by HECO. The plant will utilize six Wärtsilä 34DF engines capable of running on diesel, biodiesel or liquefied natural gas. Instead of executing a PPA, Ahsing says, “We are leasing land to them and not entering into a separate PPA with Hawaiian Electric. We will continue to procure our power from Hawaiian Electric through the existing tariff.” The only arrangement as part of the lease agreement is the base will have first call to power if the grid goes down. Together, Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield, and Field Station Kunia require approximately 32 MW of peak power.

Ahsing says the project awaits completion of two important actions before moving forward: Issuance of the final Environmental Impact Statement, and approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. She says the final EIS should be issued in late October and a decision from HPUC is expected by this November.

Bob King, president of Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, which owns and operates the 5.5 MMgy Big Island Biodiesel plant in Hawaii, says when the fuel procurement bid process begins, PBT will participate. “They’d like to buy fuel from us,” he says. In October, HPUC approved a two-year contract for PBT to supply up to 3 MMgy of biodiesel to HECO for power generation on Oahu. King says, “We need these long-term commitments to get other renewables going.”

Author: Ron Kotrba
Senior Editor, Biomass Magazine
218-745-8347
rkotrba@bbiinternational.com