Frontline Commanders Requesting Renewable Power Options
Jan 24, 2012 12:19 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff

Latest updates: US Army initiatives. On July 25/06 Al-Anbar commander and U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer submitted an MNF-W priority 1 request. It pointed to the hazards inherent in American supply lines, and noted that many of the supply convoys on Iraq’s roads (up to 70%, by some reports) were carrying fuel. Much of that fuel wasn’t even for vehicles, but for diesel generators used to generate power at US bases. That is still true, and Afghanistan has even more daunting logistics. By some estimates, shipping each gallon of fuel to Afghanistan requires 7 gallons of fuel for transport.
WANTED: stuff like this… (click to view full)

A number of Pentagon projects use alternative energy at various installations, but Zilmer’s request is believed to have been the first formal request from a front-line commander. Not to mention the first formal request that acknowledges the security dimension of alternative energy sources , in response to the growth of “systempunkt” terrorism and the non-linear battlefield. It has not been the last.

The Need on the Ground
Maj. Gen. Zilmer 2006 request reportedly called for 183 renewable energy systems of various power capacities, for deployment to Iraq. More than anything else, however, Zilmer’s letter was about changing assumptions. Those changing assumptions remained relevant, even as events overtook the original request. Well-known renewable energy advocate Amory Lovins, who advises a Defense Science Board panel on fuel efficiency, was quoted by Defense News as saying KBR convoy into Iraq that the Pentagon’s fuel cost calculations have traditionally been based on wholesale prices, and have not taken into account the actual cost of delivering it to front-line units. Before the Iraq war, “fuel logistics were assumed to be free and uninterruptible.” Former CIA director and current energy adviser to the Pentagon and Congress James Woolsey adds this:

“If you’re talking about getting the gas to an M1A1 tank in Fallujah, the supply lines, the tanker vehicles and their protection could drive the cost up to $100 a gallon or more.”

Which, interestingly enough, is about the price level that Halliburton subsidiary KBR got into trouble for, when it was responsible for providing fuel to US forces in Iraq. As it happens, the notoriously fuel-thirsty M1 Abrams tanks are not even the main problem. A study done by the US Marines in Iraq found that only 10% of their consumption was by armed vehicles. Only 2 of the Army’s top 10 fuel consumers are combat vehicles, and fuel haulers make up 75% of its “bottom 4″ least-efficient vehicles. When coupled with the growing needs of bases on the ground, it can hardly be surprising that 2004-2009 saw the consumption of fuel at American forward operating bases in conflict zones rise 10-fold, from 50 million to 500 million gallons. The US military’s research and engineering director John Young reportedly commissioned a task force on energy efficiency and renewable fuels, and says the Pentagon is trying to develop a more accurate calculation for the delivered price of fuel to forward-deployed troops. These calculations will then feed into future acquisition

said that: A change in the wind? “70% of the tonnage delivered to deployed forces is fuel. ranking Republican member of the House Armed Services Seapower & Expeditionary Forces subcommittee. what actually happened in Iraq? First.” A March 13/08 speech by Rep.” In addition… “As we transfer control to the Iraqis. When they did use roads. they can be lost over the longer term if circumstances and logistics make them too expensive . thanks to the tribal “Anbar Awakening” that broke al-Qaeda’s influence over large areas of the country. Wars are not won by having superior miles per gallon. As Terry Pudas of the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation put it: “This is the beginning of the people trying to understand that the whole notion of energy means being more effective in operations. increase costs further. RPG. Many American vehicles were kept off the roads. the request for local renewable power options was declined in 2007. On the ground. Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD]. units traveled in blast-resistant MRAP vehicles. Most of those MRAPs were flown into theater by C-17 transport. the single greatest source of casualties in Iraq. the most significant development was that the de facto transfer to Iraqis happened a lot faster than expected. USMC Al-Anbar Convoy (click to view full) At all levels. fuel usage can be said to have intensified – but a shift in the war’s conduct made that change supportable. Defense News reported that the request said: “If this need is not met. but it was done by making much heavier use of fuel-expensive airlift for supplies. On the other hand.programs. adding much more weight to energy efficiency criteria. operating forces will remain unnecessarily exposed to IED. lessening the need for coalition forces to provide future logistics support…” So. better intelligence and local tribes’ efforts would up sharply cutting the number of IED land mines encountered. and [small arms fire] threats and will continue to accrue preventable Level III and IV serious and grave casualties resulting from motor vehicle accidents and… attacks. the emerging conclusion was that one of the best ways to reduce casualties on the roads would be to reduce the number of vehicles forced to use them. which are much heavier and less fuel-efficient than the Humvee jeeps they replaced. Fuel delivery convoys to deployed forces add costs to the logistical chain and create targets for IEDs. Additional personnel protection measures to reduce casualties from IEDs. the addition of renewable and self-sustainable energy at the outlying bases will enable the Iraqis to operate independently. Modern technologies were not seen as reliable and effective enough to justify the cost of buying and deploying them. …Continued casualty accumulation exhibits potential to jeopardize mission success. such as air cover or air transport substitutions for ground convoys. Over time. however. This should come as no surprise.” In response.

based on the ISO standard shipping containers that have become ubiquitous throughout the global supply chain. fuel. Gen.000 depending on the configuration). Zilmer’s 2006 request singled out the Mobile Power System (MPS) (also knows as transportable hybrid electric power station. but potentially a useful amount for tactical scenarios. Over at Robins AFB. Zilmer’s 2006 request is not going away. See this article for more examples . however. The military’s reliance on diesel fuels. much less than a MPS (around $100. GA is not the same thing as a battlefield option.” The firm has received funding from the CIA’s In-Q-Tel . With respect to costs. reducing or eliminating fuel costs. or as backup power sources for stateside bases.500-$10. Porta-Power: Options and Considerations By 2006. The 2006 MNF-W request thought there was still a business case: “Comparison of the true costs (capital costs. As the Pentagon considers deployment in climates ranging from Afghanistan’s mountains to Iraq’s river valleys. means that any associated generators and backups must also be able to handle these jet fuels. They are likely to remain relevant in future conflicts. But a system in Macon. THEPS reportedly provides about 5kW of power on average. a fuel cell system was already being demonstrated. and have enough storage capacity to run continuously for a minimum of 24 hours. but after only [three to five] years these costs are . non-energy related functions like housing a command and control center.” This kind of dual transportation/use functionality is among the factors driving the gradual global military trend toward containerized systems. or THEPS).) of a 10 kilowatt diesel generator shows that a SkyBuilt Power MPS solar/battery system can cut those costs by at [least 75%] while improving reliability. Zilmer’s document enclosed a list of requirements that a successful renewable energy system fielded to Iraq must be able to satisfy. mostly derivatives of JP-5 and JP-8.000]. Finally. the ability to operate in climates from cold to tropical to wet to dry is an obvious need. Gen. GA. and logistics. VA firm who aims to become “ the Dell of renewable energy systems . handling. fuel logistics. etc. Future barracks? Maj. According to InsideDefense. USA. there’s no doubt that conventional diesel generators are far less expensive. and then easily moving them around in-theater. environmentally-sound fuel sources for troops in deployed locations. Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s climates certainly make solar power a very strong option. from hardened troop transports to field hospitals and even temporary bases. maintenance. SkyBuilt is an Arlington. and providing a low heat signature… The up-front capital costs of a 10 kilowatt diesel generator are around [$7. flexibility in getting them to global trouble spots. Power output must cover a range of devices from 100 – 240 volts. however. Inside the Pentagon reportedly added that once the system was deployed. The impetus behind Maj. depending on weather conditions – not a huge amount. “the [ISO standard shipping] container can be used for a myriad of other. It would be deployed as part of BEAR (basic expeditionary airfield resources). One logical approach for higher-end porta-power involves containerized modules. or force poor tactical approaches that erode support at . The question is what form future options will continue. a containerized solution built by SkyBuilt Power. are key benefits for combat commanders. some efforts and directives were already pushing the US military in the direction of renewable power. saving manpower [and] spare parts. The Common Core Power Production (C2P2) program was a year-long demonstration & validation DoD/ USAF program to seek alternative. a venture arm set up to fund innovative technologies that could benefit US national security.

and Sharon Burke. At present. What’s certain is that the MNF-W request was denied in June 2007. InsideDefense. They are not usually competitive with standard technologies at first. a broad agency announcement was expected. If you add the fuel used to ship that fuel in. This is a normal pattern for new technologies. One is whether niche applications can emerge. An even bigger benefit of the systems used was the ability to conduct a 3-week foot patrol “without battery resupply. This has not stopped subsequent efforts. assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs. Instead. Solar Shades. the Solar Stik 3. visit Camp Sabalu-Harrison in Afghanistan. and their disadvantages are outweighed by their advantages. but that’s probably good news. Contracts and Key Developments Jan 8/12: Frank Kendall. from computers to hydraulic backhoes. and systematically evaluate the impact of technology such as improved efficiency environmental control units.0 kW Hybrid system ). The second is whether key technologies will advance fast enough to begin “moving up the food chain.5 gallons. LED lighting systems. Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy Systems (SPACES).com later added a follow-up . 5th Marine Regiment has returned from Sangin. and Solar Light Trailers. and discussed a new program called the Energy Initiative Proving Ground. where they tested the ExFOB systems in a combat environment. logistics and technology. and the US Air Force has stepped into the game as well. The longer-term questions are twofold. on grounds of cost and uncertain technologies. though many of them seem to have shifted toward smaller-scale systems.” and providing more comprehensive solutions. insulating thermal tent liners. The ExFOB systems included Ground Renewable Energy Networks (GREENS). March 2011: The USMC’s 3rd Battalion. Afghanistan.recovered…” Maybe so. reducing [overall] load on Marines [in the unit] by 700 lbs. project officer for REF’s renewable and hybrid energy research. and hybrid solar-electrical power technology in changing that baseline. and led to a March 14/11 RFI #M00264-11-I-0209: “ExFOB – Concentrated Solar Harvesting Technology & Tactical Vehicle Fuel Efficiency “: . to see the first microgrid there. It was such a success that the Marines are looking to expand it. USMC ExFOB (click to view full) EIPG will establish a quantitative baseline for energy and fuel use in expeditionary operations. they must find a more limited niche where lower performance is all that’s required. to about 15 gallons per day. tent shades. maybe not. while a 3rd base dropped fuel use from 20 gallons per day to about 2. noting that The US Army was moving ahead with plans to develop and test renewable energy systems in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008. in order to create order flow and investment. 2 patrol bases are operating on 100% renewable energy. US Army . The systems they’re testing tend to be smaller and more limited in scope. soliciting “…innovative off-the-shelf products to provide integrated concepts for power generation that will reduce the amount of fuel shipped to remote operating bases and observation posts in a theater of operations” The USMC has also continued its efforts. it’s actually a reduction for the Corps from about 140-150 gallons per day.” The experiment has been explicitly cited for congratulations in Senate hearings. acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition. with the aid of its Rapid Equipping Force . Brian Smith. According to Air Force Capt. They also saw several solar-energy platforms that Rapid Equipping Force uses in its Energy to the Edge initiative (incl.

forces with lightweight. The system uses portable SLMCO water purification systems and Zero Base power generation systems. March 12/10: USMC Commandant Conway visits a technical demonstration where more than two dozen commercial vendors showcased the first USMC Experimental Forward Operating Base. May 21/10: During exercise African Lion in Morocco. the effort is in Phase 2. It’s not efficient. operating in both grid-tied and grid-independent modes. and (2) Technology descriptions may result in invitations for equipment manufacturers to demonstrate their technologies at the ExFOB 2011 at no cost or risk to the Government. Technology and Acquisition planning necessary to mature technologies toward fieldable solutions. SkyBuilt is one of the participants. from 11 through 20 August 2011… This ExFOB event will be conducted in conjunction with the U. into the existing BEAR power grid. where the Lockheed Martin Microgrid Development Center is located. Marines test a portable system called the Expeditionary Forward Operating Base program (ExFOB). USMC . Lockheed Martin and SkyBuilt expect that their solution will be relevant to civil and international markets. Aug 11/10: SkyBuilt Power announces a contract from the US Army to provide rapidly deployable renewable energy power stations for Afghanistan. etc. similar to those used in Afghanistan. TO . The Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources (BEAR) program equips U. That usually means running the vehicle at idle. and investment decisions… Information received in response to this RFI is intended to serve two purposes. combining its 10 foot SkyTrailer with their partner ElectroChemistry’s fresh water treatment system. LED lights for a medium size general purpose tent. SkyBuilt releases no details. in order to provide drinking water. with goals to reduce fuel consumption by 25% and improve power availability. Air Force. including renewables. US Office of Naval Research | USMC ExFOB Briefing [PDF] | USMC interim release . (1) Technology descriptions will help formulate the Science .S. and ways to bow to reality on the ground by helping tactical vehicle’s be more efficient when used as a power source.5 million contract to develop the containerized Integrated SmartBEAR Power System (ISBPS) for the U. supplementing conventional diesel generation with solar and wind power. USMC | SkyBuilt . to see how well it fares in a combat environment. so making a difference here by improving efficiencies. would make a real difference.S. May 18/10: The US Army announces that it will hold its first-ever Renewable Energy Rodeo and Symposium June 8-9 at Fort Bliss. Other than saying that the contract provides for both products and services. At this point. SkyBuilt | Defense Daily . 2011-01 | US Senate Armed Services Committee Hearings: Transcripts. as well as military uses. The system will independently sustain critical power loads when the primary grid is unavailable. etc.“The rapid deployment of 3/5 proved to be highly successful and has already resulted in changes to USMC’s requirements documents.S. air-transportable gear used to establish mobile air bases. adding useful bolt-ons. ISBPS will integrate a variety of energy sources. and power outlets for small electrical devices like ruggedized laptop computers.” They’re primarily interested in Concentrated Solar Harvesting technologies to produce power and hot water. Feb 23/10: The USMC issues a Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy bulletin. TX. Army through their Expedited Modernization Initiative Procedure (EMIP) process. acquisitions. The next phase will see equipment sent to Afghanistan. ISBPS priority will be given to housing and airfield operation. but it is ubiquitous. and using it to power or charge external devices. Initial ISBPS development and demonstration using actual BEAR structures will happen at Lockheed Martin’s Dallas site. | Video [Flash 10] || Aviation Week . Key Excerpt: “OPPORTUNITIES EXIST TO REDUCE THE DEMAND FOR SUPPLY CONVOYS. May 6/10: Lockheed Martin announces a $3. Lockheed is partnered with SkyBuilt Power. evaluating existing commercial technologies to meet the Marines’ needs for small company-sized bases.

Danger Room relays the news from Inside Defense. Engineering support is being provided by the Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center. May 21/10 entry) is one of the testing initiatives that comes out of this assessment. and mentions that the US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force is evaluating Skybuilt’s transportable hybrid electric power station (THEPS). SkyBuilt announcement.GENERATE POWER MORE EFFICIENTLY. then report back with findings. and conduct an assessment of the energy used by deployed Marine units. AND TO MAKE BETTER USE OF ALTERNATIVE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES. Subsequent SkyBuilt releases add that the firm’s units will be used by the US Department of Homeland Security. ‘Let’s not only lighten the load. Not fade away… (click to view full) April 2007: National Defense Magazine’s “Alternative power sources sought for remote bases ” covers alternative energy and water options for the front lines. all of which focus on fixed installations at major state-side bases. has asked a group of energy experts to find commercial products that . May 7/07: SkyBuilt announces that it had been selected as 1 of the 3 companies chosen to perform trade studies and design renewable energy trailer mounted power stations to reduce fuel use in the field for US Marines under the Multi-National Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. the commanding general of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and vice chief of Naval Research: “The Commandant has said. May 1/08: Small scale experiments continue. Deployable & Renewable Energy Alternative Module. June 2007: The USA’s Joints Chiefs of Staff rejects Maj.S. providing the US Army with renewable energy power solutions for remote cellular transmission tower installations. Iraq where they will be undergoing assessment and Technical Data Package Development. Col. AND MARINES ARE ENCOURAGED TO MAKE USE OF THE UNIVERSAL NEED STATEMENT (UNS) OR URGENT UNS PROCESS FOR BATTLEFIELD IMPROVEMENTS. Feb 12/09: A PSN article notes that SkyBuilt systems are seeing limited deployment. programs and funding to leverage the Army’s nationwide energy-conservation efforts. Oct 6/08: The U. Robert Hedelund. Gen. DEVELOP. Gen. but let’s reduce risk to Marines downrange by reducing our reliance…” ExFOB (vid. Source . no permalink . as well as the Program Manager Field Support Systems (PM-FSS). This award is for Phase 1 of a three Phase program called DREAM. The secretary also announces 5 major energy projects. NOT ALL OF THE SOLUTIONS TO THE MARINE CORPS’ CHALLENGES WILL COME FROM THE HEADQUARTERS. WHICH MAY PROVIDE CASH AWARDS FOR RECOMMENDING IMPROVEMENTS THAT HELP MARINES. Army announces a Senior Energy Council to serve as a board of directors focusing on Army energy policy. The director of the Rapid Equipping Force. on the Canadian border. This is part of a larger effort.” September 2009: The Commandant of the US Marine Corps directs the Marine Corps Energy Assessment Team to go to Afghanistan. THE EXPEDITIONARY ENERGY OFFICE WAS ACTIVATED LAST NOVEMBER AS A SEPARATE STAFF ELEMENT OF HEADQUARTERS MARINE CORPS TO ANALYZE. Zilmer’s request. AS WELL AS THE BENEFICIAL SUGGESTION PROGRAM. Defense Life Sciences announces that 2 Tactical Garbage to Energy Refinery (TGER) bio-refineries have been deployed to Victory Base Camp. Brig. saying the solar and wind-powered technologies are “not mature enough” to send out the battlefield. Greg Tubbs. AND DIRECT OUR ENERGY STRATEGY IN ORDER TO IMPROVE EXPEDITIONARY CAPABILITIES ACROSS ALL WARFIGHTING FUNCTIONS.

via Military. US Army (May 10/12) – Army scientists develop deployable renewable-energy solutions New York Times (Oct 5/10) – U. Includes recent US military fuel use & cost figures. the US Army REF is considering shipping units to 2 Djibouti and Kuwait for (Aug 11/06) – Renewable Energy Systems Wanted in Iraq .000 of that is for the fuel needed to support that soldier. and then ordering more for Iraq and Afghanistan if the verdicts are positive. from the ongoing “Energy Conversation” series. sponsored in part by the Pentagon. 2009 – Energy Security . Maxwell Air Force Base – War Without Oil: A Catalyst For True Transformation [PDF].can be deployable within 18 months and that will reduce fuel consumption by’s article is worth reading in full. Military Seeks “Green” Energy Solutions Brookings Institute (August 2009) – Fueling the “Balance”: A Defense Energy Strategy Primer InsideDefense. DID’s (March 17/06) – Energy Conservation Moving Up Pentagon’s Agenda. Hornitschek. DID (March 28/06) – Fuel & Energy Issues Continue to Get Spotlight in US Military. Includes transcripts etc. Hat tip to the Defense Tech article by Stephen Trimble. WIRED Danger Room later adds that he 45-day trial involves 4 units. Air University.S. and up to $350. Additional Readings US Naval War College – Cebrowski Institute’s web site . Lt Col. .” who highlighted it as a notably visionary piece. InsideDefense. Is the vision achievable at reasonable cost? Read this Feb 17/06 thesis and decide. Thesis by Michael J. US Army. Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels National Defense (February 2010) – Tough to Free Troops From Oppressive Tyranny of Fuel . “Oil Free by 2050 . “The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon is spending $1 million per soldier deployed in Afghanistan.S.” USA ASC 9September 2009) – U. See also Army Energy Security Implementation Strategy (AESIS) [PDF]. USAF.

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