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Installation Energy Security Plans and the U.S. Marine Corps

This article was written by Diane Cherry, Strategic Industry Professional, NCMBC.  For more information or assistance, please contact Diane at cherryd@ncmbc.us

Over the past couple of decades, the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) has been making strides toward energy efficiency and alternative energy methods. In the early 2000s, Marines Corps Base Camp Lejeune was preparing for power shortages as energy demands spiked and rising temperatures threatened outages. Moving into the 2010s, the Corps continued energy conservation efforts and energy awareness campaigns; at Camp Lejeune, leaders discussed shifts toward cleaner energy sources, renovations to improve building efficiency, residential conservation programs, and goals for reduction in overall base energy intensity.

Now in 2021, the USMC is part of Department of Defense (DoD) programming to ensure armed forces mission readiness through energy security and energy resilience. This Installation Energy Program recognizes military dependence on reliable and robust energy to power facilities, equipment, and weapons, and seeks to invest in future preparedness. A comprehensive strategy ensuring continuity of mission-essential functions must include increasing efficiencies, enhancing backup power options, and lowering overall energy costs.

The USMC has developed an Installation Energy Security Plan (IESP) framework meant to ensure energy security planning, project execution, collaboration, and program management to ensure continuous operations on missions and in critical services. The program was created to identify gaps in energy security, create solutions, and help monitor performance and progress. Technical solutions will promote energy resilience in the form of energy generation and infrastructure hardening at fixed military installations; for example, small backup generation units, large-scale solar photovoltaic arrays, co-generation plants, and microgrids may all function to achieve USMC and DoD energy security goals.

Small Backup Generation Units

  • Diesel-generated backup power, reliable if sufficiently maintained and fueled
  • Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) which bridge generator startup times for critical loads that cannot experience brief power outages

Analyses have shown that energy resilience and cost savings could be improved through generator removal where they are connected to non-critical loads (i.e. eliminating redundant generation), clustering critical loads where oversized units have been installed (consolidating generation), and adequately testing generators according to manufacturer and DoD Operations, Maintenance, and Testing recommendations.

Microgrids

Energy tech enabled by microgrids may increase resilience and potentially reduce expenses through enabling distribution from multiple power sources and isolation of self-sufficient power systems. Microgrids may also supply power during outages and save fuel by only running generation to meet current and expected loads. For example, one of Camp Lejeune’s satellite facilities, Camp Johnson, has a planned microgrid that will allow the Camp to entirely island itself away from commercial power and support its entire energy load with distributed generation.

Distributed Power Generation and Energy Storage

Similar to Camp Johnson, military installations in regions with existing or planned renewable resources may be able to “island” and store energy from such resources, providing reliable and smooth power if the main grid fails to reduce fuels consumption or provide sufficient energy. As currently installed, resources near military facilities do not yet have islanding capabilities and are not functional as resilience solutions.

Prime Power Co-Generation and Natural Gas

Though not particularly helpful in terms of national decarbonization goals, co-generation plants may help to provide energy that meets installations’ electricity requirements. If natural gas prices are low and grid power prices are high, blending generation sources may be a more cost-effective option. Success, however, is contingent on access to integrated natural gas pipelines as well as access to multi-fueled backup generators, to allow continued energy access during main power outages and minimize on-base fuel storage.

As of right now, the DoD appears ambivalent toward implementing one technology source over the other, with no priorities toward renewable energy and climate-friendly targets. The primary focus is to improve long-term energy resilience, ensuring continuance of mission readiness and critical functions.





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