Synovision In the News  –  Defense News, October 2009

Army, Industry to Discuss Next Step in Energy Plan

By Kris Osborn  /  Published: 8 Oct 22:24 EDT (02:24 GMT)
U.S. Army leaders and engineers have scheduled key meetings with industry officials in November to begin the implementation of the Army's ambitious new energy plans, which call for thousands of new battery-powered cars on Army posts, converting waste into fuel, managing energy on bases and getting private sector funding to build new solar and geothermal energy plants.

"We are thinking about smart energy," said Paul Bollinger, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and partnerships.

Formally unveiled at the annual meeting Association of the United States Army in Washington this week, the Army's energy plans include the creation of a new Senior Energy Council designed to oversee the plans. Naturally, a key focus of the effort centers around reducing the need to haul fuel around the battlefield.

"As far as acquisition goes, we are working to ensure that the cost of fuel is considered with the acquisition of any platform. We want to reduce the number of vehicles required for fuel and reduce all of the logistics needed for fuel," Bollinger said. "There is no sense in being expeditionary if you are tied to a fuel depot."

Most generators and vehicles use JP 8 fuel, however UAVs and some other systems require different kinds, Bollinger said.

As part of the preparations for its energy plan, the Army conducted a study to determine how much fuel was used in theater and transported around the battlefield in order to quantify potential future energy savings.

"We calculated how much fuel was used in theater. We correlated that to how many convoys it took to haul that fuel and how many soldiers would travel per convoy. We calculated that one percent energy savings at a forward operating base results in almost 6,500 fewer soldier trips, and that is just one percent," said Bollinger.

Also, Bollinger said the Army's effort to add insulating foam to tents set up on forward operating bases has already demonstrated the value of fuel savings.

"If you take the tent foam that we've done, that reduces energy by 50-60 percent," said Bollinger. . "Two inches of hard foam makes it quieter, a better living environment for soldiers. Those generators are powering the heat and AC."

In fact, Army Secretary Pete Geren said considerations regarding fuel efficiency are driving the development of the Future Combat Systems (FCS), the Army's flagship modernization plan.

For instance, FCS' new 27-ton Manned Ground Vehicles (MGV) are driven by a hybrid-electric propulsion system which consumes six gallons per mile at a speed of 30 mph, an amount about one-third as much as the Army's 72-ton Abrams.

The MGV's diesel engine drives a 400-kilowatt generator that powers electric traction motors and provides electricity for off-board use.

The system allows upgrades to save even more energy if, say, better batteries or fuel cells come along, said FCS spokesman Paul Mehney.

The MGV propulsion system is powered by lithium ion batteries which may be upgraded or replaced in years to come.

"The Army has several initiatives underway to look at the end state of batteries for the MGV. We are working with academia and the commercial world to look at what is the best way to lessen the weight of batteries and increase their power," said FCS spokesman Paul Mehney. "Also, the diesel engine is decoupled from the drive train so that if fuel cells or alternative technology comes along, we can pop it in. We are not marrying ourselves to a specific power generation, and we are thinking down the line."

Even the Abrams may get refitted to save gas. General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) believes it could halve fuel use by replacing the turbine with two engines, one to drive the tank and one to generate electricity.

"We build what is called responsive power software designed to maximize fuel efficiency, so you are only providing power where and when needed through a power management system architecture," said GDLS technology-and-innovation director Rich Dinges.

Also, a BAE-Army program is outfitting a Stryker vehicle with a generator that uses a 600-volt DC system.

"These days there is an insatiable need for power and energy. Tactical wheeled vehicles are running out of power," said BAE military systems director Doug Thrall.

Called Common Modular Power System, the technology has been installed on Humvees and M109 Paladin mobile artillery system, Thrall said.