It’s been a learning process for the past few years to ensure every new Army Energy Conservation Investment Program (ECIP) project has what it needs from start to finish – from the first photovoltaic module installed to the last foot of cable that securely ties the system into the installation network.
Part of the appropriated fund military construction (MILCON) program but funded separately by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, ECIP projects are designed to dramatically change energy consumption at an installation or joint base, implement renewable energy technologies and generate and store energy to improve supply resilience for critical loads.
Despite it being a requirement to build information technology (IT) needs and associated cost estimates into all MILCON project plans to produce a “complete and useable facility,” it has been an often overlooked requirement for ECIP projects – primarily because they don’t look like normal MILCON projects.
Program managers used to dealing with actual buildings have to rethink network solutions for wind turbines and solar arrays in the middle of an open field that still require cabling and communications systems to relay energy data to a central meter and make them secure, according to Karen R. Moore, the ECIP and Resource Efficiency Manager program manager for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville.
The initial planning process requires good communication and thorough coordination between the command or garrison energy manager – the individual who typically initiates an ECIP project – and the Directorate of Public Works, the Network Enterprise Center and the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineer Command (USAISEC), according to Thomas B. Delaney Jr., the Army’s ECIP program manager in the Facilities Policy Division of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management at the Pentagon.
The Huntsville Center – which provides technical assistance for and validates all Army ECIP projects before they can be submitted to OSD – hosted its first MILCON Information Systems Planning, Programming and Cost Estimation Workshop specifically for ECIP projects in March. Representatives from the Army Reserve, National Guard Bureau, Army Corps of Engineers and the Installation Management Command participated in the three-day workshop designed to enhance ECIP project planning coordination across the Army and improve cost estimates submitted for ECIP project IT requirements. Tracy Sebold, who validates ECIP project IT requirements for USAISEC at Fort Detrick, Md., also participated in the training to help explain the current process for validating the sufficiency of requested IT support for ECIP projects.
“It’s hard for a garrison energy manager to be an expert in wind, solar and geothermal technologies, and develop a really thorough (DD Form) 1391. We provide them a team of experts who can help them develop a robust plan for a project that will accomplish their goals,” Moore said. The DD Form 1391, the automated form used to document all MILCON project requirements, is part of the package submitted through Army to OSD for approval and funding.
Beginning with those being submitted for fiscal year 2016 funding, ECIP projects are being looked at with a more holistic approach to ensure every aspect of the project is accurately documented on the 1391 – to include Tab F, which details the information systems cost estimate – and all responsible parties are involved in the planning and development process.
Understanding that technologies might change from the initial plan to the actual building phase – especially when it comes to IT requirements, Moore emphasized the 1391 is a living planning document with cost estimates for what will be needed for the project at completion – a sort of placeholder with funding.
“The ultimate goal – after all FY 16 projects are installed – is that we can push a button and tell exactly what the energy savings are for the entire program,” Moore said. “To make that a reality, we’ve got to get the fiber cable to the wind turbines to collect the data, and that cabling – and all associated cost estimates – to connect it from point A to point B need to be part of the initial plan.”
How well the Army is executing current projects is vital to securing future funding, Delaney said. “Bottom line is that when an ECIP project is complete it should either be saving energy or generating energy, but there should be some number coming out. Right now for too many of them there is just no number at all.”
Moore and Delaney also emphasized the importance of focusing energy conservation program efforts on mission critical projects so the right projects receive funding.
“It’s critically important for installations and agencies to develop an energy plan with defined and measurable goals, and then determine where their projects fit in that plan and how they help meet your energy conservation goals, like reducing your energy intensity footprint or meeting your 25 percent renewable energy goals,” Delaney said.
The Army competes with all other military services and agencies for a piece of the $150 million ECIP funding pie appropriated by Congress. Additionally, ECIP projects are prioritized within the four categories: 60 percent of projects are energy efficiency, 25 percent renewable energy, 10 percent energy security and 5 percent water conservation.
For the past three years the Army has had just under $50 million in ECIP projects funded by DOD – about half of what was submitted. The typical ECIP project is about $4 to $5 million, with projected energy savings greater than $750,000 and a savings-to-investment ratio of greater than 1 for renewable energy and water conservation projects and 1.25 for energy efficiency projects.
“We’ve got to strategically develop our projects across the Army – not only to forecast and meet the needs of our agencies and installations, but to secure the funding from OSD to move forward and continue reducing energy consumption and improving energy security,” Moore said.
The Huntsville Center ECIP team not only validates Army ECIP projects, they also share their expertise with Army, Army Reserve and National Guard command and garrison energy managers and staff to help develop the most robust projects to meet their energy conservation program goals.
For more information, call the Huntsville Center ECIP team at (256) 895-1417.