With a proven track record of helping federal agencies and military installations identify successful ways to reduce energy and water consumption and increase efficiency, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Energy Engineering Analysis Program (EEAP) has expanded its efforts to ensure USACE-owned civil works facilities are also as efficient as possible. Helping both USACE and external customers comply with federal mandates to reduce energy and water use has both economic and sustainability benefits.
“We are looking at ourselves to set the example,” said Raúl E. Alonso, EEAP program manager at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville. “Our customers are responding aggressively to identify conservation measures so they can plan and request project funding for implementation.”
The EEAP team conducts holistic facility assessments, also referred to as energy audits or surveys, to identify cost-saving energy and water conservation measures that will help achieve near-term federal energy policy goals of a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption and a 16 percent reduction in water usage by 2015.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers instructed and funded the Huntsville Center to perform several civil works facility energy audits as a pilot project in fiscal year 2011 starting with its energy hogs – facilities that constitute at least 75 percent of the total USACE civil works facility energy use (defined as “covered facilities” in Section 432 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007).
Taking on the civil works energy survey mission has been somewhat challenging as structures run the gamut from traditional office and administrative buildings to engineering yards, locks and dams, repair and supply bases, pumping stations and facilities along waterways. The EEAP team physically inspects every facility to assess the energy generation process, distribution systems and controls, building envelope (including windows, walls, roofing and insulation), lighting, internal mechanical/electrical loads, HVAC systems, and any other energy-consuming, energy-generating or energy-interfacing systems, according to Alonso. He said they also review recent utility bills to ensure agencies aren’t being overcharged, as well as to identify any possible rate reductions or cost savings that could potentially be achieved through working with the utility company.
Then they develop comprehensive reports for each facility identifying specific conservation measures and they “do the math” so customers can see both the recommended investment and potential cost savings for each conservation measure.
As of June 1, the EEAP team led by project manager Michael Braddock completed audits at 27 covered USACE facilities yielding 412 energy conservation measures (ECMs), averaging an annual cost savings of $1.33 million with a capital investment of just under $9 million. Simple payback equates to 6.6 years, which simply means the projects will pay for themselves within seven years, according to Alonso. Across the entire program, more than 4,900 ECMs have been identified at Department of Defense installations, Reserve centers and federal agencies with an annual cost-savings of some $154 million and an average four-year simple payback on the investment. Program-wide estimated annual energy savings is more than 7.3 million MMBtu, which is enough electricity to power approximately 194,865 houses for a year.
Alonso added that there are unique USACE facilities with process-related energy consumption, such as fish barriers, locks and dams. These facilities are already using the best technology available for their specific operation and the recommended energy conservation measures would yield minor cost savings.
One such example is the Chicago District’s Electric Barriers installed in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to deter the spread of growing invasive Asian carp populations through an electric field in the water. The initial EEAP audit report identified five ECMs that would reduce the barrier’s $721,000 annual energy bill by only $17,000 at an implementation cost of $78,000.
“Although Chicago District's ECMs were not all immediately executable, two of them were: adjusting thermostats to design settings and installing a programmable thermostat in a field office. These two low investment cost recommendations, with paybacks of less than a year, were completed under the operations and maintenance initiative,” said Philip Horstman, assistant facility manager for the district’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Dispersal Barrier.
In addition, the annual energy bill will increase significantly once the third barrier – currently under development – goes online, and Chicago District (LRC) has come back to the Huntsville Center’s Energy Division for help with exploring alternative methods to reduce costs and consumption.
“Our project delivery team is discussing and reengaging with the subject matter experts for best utility pricing on the open market and the effort will require contracting support, subject matter experts outside of LRC, and project leads within LRC in order to execute this initiative successfully,” said Horstman, who added that the district was very satisfied with the effort of the EEAP field team.
Huntsville Center’s Commercial Utilities Program manager Bernard Givan is engaged to review utility rates and billings to ensure the customer obtains fair and reasonable utility prices and Braddock is leading an effort – working closely with the district and the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory – to explore the use of photovoltaic, wind power and energy from waste sources.
Huntsville Center has several sustainability and energy programs with contract vehicles that can assist agencies with ECM implementation – such as Energy Savings Performance Contracts, Utility Energy Services Contracts, and Power Purchase Agreements and Energy Management – but it’s up to the agency being audited to choose the appropriate implementation strategy and follow through with project execution. Huntsville Center assists in that process, as well.
“The savings won’t be immediate in most cases, but conservation measures can deliver a great return on investment when you look beyond the initial investment and calculate the long-term savings, we stand ready to help you succeed in achieving your energy and sustainability goals,” Alonso said.