AUDIO: Naval Engineer Aiming for Net Zero
Last October John Coon, of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southwest, spoke at the “Roadmap to Zero Net Energy Conference” about the Navy’s transition towards Zero Net Energy. As chief engineer and capital improvements business line coordinator, Coon is responsible for the planning, design, and construction of over $ 1 Billion worth of facilities annually for supported commands across six southwestern states. His speech compliments Navy Secretary Mabus’ defense of the Navy’s experimentation with alternative energy after recent criticism from Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes.
The Department of Defense is uniquely positioned. With the infrastructure that DOD owns, I would venture to guess that we are probably one of the largest clients of The US Green Building Council right now.
40 % of the nation’s usage is DOD. 72% of electrical consumption. And that’s your tax payer dollar going there. It’s not coming from some other magical place. It’s coming from your tax dollar, every paycheck.
Secretary of the Navy Mabus put out some very efficient goals here. By 2020 we’re going to be cutting our fossil fuels in half. One of the biggest costs to DOD is its utility costs, and have any of you heard where DOD is headed in the next 10 years? Downward. Big downward. The minimum that we’ve committed to is $350 billion reduction over the next 10 years. DOD is going to really struggle—that’s probably a 60% to 70% budget cut. So they’re looking at energy usage. That’s our number one [cost]—other than labor—it’s utility usage, so that’s probably the biggest reason that we’re looking at this.
Another big deal for government, for DOD, is—yes, we want to cut our bills and reduce energy usage—but we are so tied to electricity. Any of you from San Diego County? We had a blackout not a month ago down there. The entire city came to a standstill. It was started by something that happened in Arizona, it started tripping things and pretty soon the entire county was blacked out and our installations were blacked out. Our ships lost power. Our ships tie into the infrastructure, to the shore, to save energy. Otherwise they’re burning fossil fuel, or we have nuclear ships there as well, but the city and the community doesn’t like to have those reactors turned on all the time. So when they’re in port they turn off and they plug in to the infrastructure. When electricity went out, all of our installations went down as well. That’s how tied we are to the current grid and the current infrastructure and that’s a security issue for us.
We were vulnerable at that point. Somebody wants to come on and do some terrorist activity, we didn’t have the – we’re relying on a lot of security networks and cameras and such, and a lot of that stuff went down. It was enlightening for us to see just how vulnerable we were. So “energy security” is a big term in DOD.
Here’s a couple of things that we’ve done: A lot of the stuff we’ve been into has been in photovoltaics and such. We’ve actually put in projects for photovoltaics. This fiscal year we’re going to be building a photovoltaic farm, a mini-farm, at MCRD, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, in San Diego.
Another area is biofuel. Tactical vehicles and getting those vehicles out to the front lines is a big deal for us. Right now we are putting in through the ARRA program, the stimulus money, we’re putting in an electrical line from the Miramar Landfill, which is a city landfill on federal property. We’re going to do methane gas conversion and generate electricity. So we’ve got a third party out of upstate New York that’s going to operate the methane plant, and we’re going to buy electricity from them at a reduced cost to power parts of Miramar air station.
Another area that we’re really into is consumption reduction. It’s one thing to get off of petroleum-based fuels, but it’s another just to quench our thirst for energy. Part of that is through our advanced metering and our communications. That’s a big area for us right now is our advanced metering. In fact that was part of the stimulus money that President Obama secured through Congress for us. A lot of money went into that advanced metering across all the DOD installations.
I set that platform to let you know that the amount of investment we’re putting into energy efficiency, we’re having a real effect on the marketplace just by the sheer volume of work that we’re doing.
The Center for the Next Generation's sister organization Advanced Energy Economy is working with American Council on on Renewable Energy (ACORE) to understand the needs of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) with respect to advanced energy technologies that reduce costs and save lives. Learn more about the partnership »