News: MARFORRES energy program ventures into the future
Story by Cpl. Marcin Platek
NEW ORLEANS - The Marine Corps not only defends the United States, but also a bigger entity - the planet. Sweeping initiatives throughout the service have been doing just that and also saving a couple of bucks in Uncle Sam’s wallet.
The Marine Forces Reserve Energy Program accomplishes that, but tenfold the scale of other installations. MARFORRES is not limited to one location, but its area of responsibility spans across 47 states and Puerto Rico, to include 136 tenant locations and 27 owned sites. With this kind of responsibility comes a great need for energy that the MARFORRES Energy Program team is able to deliver.
The mission of the program is to generate utility savings, improve energy security, and improve the environment at Reserve centers nationwide by using renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and fostering conservation at the unit level to further reduce energy and water usage.
“We do it to reduce the carbon footprint across the country,” said Richard Godchaux, the MARFORRES Environmental and Energy Program Manager who took over the energy program in November 2012 and completely overhauled it into what it is today.
The program has achieved some major accomplishments so far.
One such accomplishment was reducing the water usage of MARFORRES facilities by 26 percent from 2007. The Department of Defense has mandated a required 30 percent water usage reduction by 2015.
According to Justin Runnels, the MARFORRES energy program coordinator, MARFORRES is ahead of the curve in reaching that goal, requiring only a reduction of one percent per year.
“It’s completely obtainable since we’re well on our way in water-usage reduction,” said Runnels.
Set to tackle more goals, Godchaux and Chris Hurst, the deputy environmental and energy manager, organized a well-versed team of managers and coordinators to help them achieve the energy goals put forth for them.
“Together the MARFORRES energy team will secure the future of MARFORRES’ energy security by diversifying the facilities from their dependence on dwindling utility resources in favor of more reliable, environmentally clean, distributable renewable generations sources," said Runnels.
At the moment, MARFORRES-owned locations generate 10 percent of their own energy by using renewable solar and wind sources. To improve this number, the program managers are working on improvements in lighting, occupancy sensors, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and building controls.
“We’re reducing energy waste, so everything we do saves the government money,” said Runnels. “When we talk about putting in solar panels, we don’t put them in unless it saves money, reduces utility costs and helps us achieve our mission in the long term.”
Godchaux also explained that “going green” has the common misconception of being cheap. He explained that it costs money upfront to purchase and install all the expensive equipment, but in the end, MARFORRES saves money by regulating and minimizing the power consumption, or energy intensity.
Another goal set for the team was to lower energy intensity. Runnels says one way to achieve that is to install demand-response systems which will not only lower utility bills from kilowatts that the facilities are generated from solar power, but also using battery energy storage to control the efficiencies of how the power is used. These systems monitor the demands for energy, and respond by adjusting them to correct levels.
“It shaves off our peaks so the usage of power is more level and the utility company does not charge us for such high demand,” said Runnels.
MARFORRES has four demand-response projects and 28 new solar photovoltaic projects with funded supporting actions. In addition, MARFORRES has eight solar projects nearing competition. This will add to the current 30 sites with advanced smart metering installed, 12 sites with HVAC efficiency upgrades, 11 sites with building automation system controls to reduce energy consumption, and 30 sites with occupancy sensors for lighting systems.
All the new equipment and initiatives can help them reach the goals, but to streamline the process, the energy team is looking into something else.
“We have some tools in our tool belt on this end, where we can remotely turn off lights and change thermostat settings,” said Runnels. “We will be able to know if you are conserving on your end. The systems can set off alarms and alert us and let us know if something is going on regarding usage.”
This remote control access is now only available for Marine Corps Support Facility field sites. Eventually all sites will report back to MARCORSPTFAC New Orleans, where everything can be controlled.
Runnels said this is particularly useful during high-peak times, such as drill weekends. The managers here would receive a usage alert for a particular facility, then monitor and adjust accordingly. This would also compensate for the off-peak times where power is wasted and power settings can be adjusted remotely if no one is present at the facility.
These initiatives will help MARFORRES energy managers reach a goal set by DOD. The plan is to have 15 percent of facilities’ energy generated by renewable sources by 2015, and 25 percent by 2025. By 2015, MARFORRES is set to also reduce its energy intensity and water usage by 30 percent relative to a baseline set in 2003.
The end state will be a greener planet and bigger savings. The money saved through the energy conservation goes back into the Marine Corps budget.
“What we do here helps Marines in-country,” said Godchaux. “The money that we save can be recycled back into the Marine Corps.”
Learning how to conserve and utilize power in peacetime will eventually help the Marine Corps manage its energy in wartime and improve future technologies.