This day is more than a decade in the making, and involved the efforts of dozens at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. It has been on the minds of officials from throughout the Department of Defense for some time.
MCLB Albany can now call itself an electrically “Net Zero” base. It is the first installation in the Department of Defense to meet this energy-efficiency milestone.
"MCLB Albany not only provides strategic value to Marine Corps warfighters through sustainment and modernization, but now boasts the impressive achievement of the first Net Zero installation in the Department of Defense,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger said. “This is the result of years-long efforts of hard working leaders at the base."
Net Zero is defined as the production of as much electricity from renewable “green” energy sources as it consumes from its utility provider.
“This is tremendous work by everyone on base,” Col. Michael Fitzgerald, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, said. “The base can be self-reliant in terms of energy with the resources we have available. The taxpayer gets a break.”
It also provides MCLB Albany a buffer to fall back on when natural disasters, like the EF3 tornado that struck the base in January 2017, knocks down electrical infrastructure.
"MCLB Albany is the first installation in the entire Department of Defense to achieve Net Zero energy, generating more energy than it consumes by implementing a range of climate friendly solutions," Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said. "I am proud of the work accomplished at MCLB Albany working in close coordination with a variety of partners in making this base more resilient, saving of taxpayer dollars, and being better equipped to fulfill its primary mission: ensuring Marines around the world have what they need to fight and win."
This is an achievement leadership on the highest levels of the Marine Corps are proud to capitalize on.
"The Marine Corps is proactively investing in efficient new facilities infrastructure through partnerships with private industry to improve the energy security posture of its installations and to deliver energy resilient capabilities," Marine Corps Installations Command Public Works Director Walter Ludwig said. "This means our installations will be able to maintain essential functions and critical services during a prolonged outage, ensuring the success of the warfighter."
"MCLB Albany's load-shedding and peak shaving capabilities, island-mode operations and innovative energy technologies, including a biomass steam turbine, landfill gas generators and advanced micro-grid controls make it a leader in simultaneously achieving 'Net Zero' climate and energy resilience goals," Ludwig added.
While reaching to new heights in terms of energy savings, this accomplishment sets an example for other installations to follow.
“To me, it is a great way other bases can look at the various definitions of Net Zero,” Fitzgerald said. “In natural disasters we can stand alone and accomplish our mission.”
The benefit to the taxpayers is significant, even if they cannot see it.
“We were spending millions on energy. Now we are dropping down significantly,” Fitzgerald said. “Our system is built in such a manner that on the rare days we pull from the grid, it is not a drain.”
The concept, when exported to other stations, is most effective when tailored to the resources the location that station has in its surrounding area. Some regions, for instance, do better with wind, while solar works best for others.
“You have to customize it to the installation,” Fitzgerald said.
Among those to put in a significant amount of effort was Hubert “Ski” Smigelski. Smigelski is now retired, but until recently served as the deputy director for the base’s Installation and Environmental Division.
The goal set forth by the Secretary of the Navy in 2010 was to have half the bases under SECNAV’s authority at Net Zero.
“We were looking around for ways to get there,” Smigelski said.
Partnerships ultimately played a pivotal role. MCLB Albany found one in Procter & Gamble. The Albany P&G plant, a short distance away from the MCLB Albany fence line, eventually became home to the Albany Green Energy biomass project that utilizes woody biomass fuel to generate steam and power.
“We use low-pressure steam from the biomass project,” Smigelski said. “All the (energy-efficiency) stuff we have done is tied into Net Zero.”
New LED lighting in Production Plant Albany, on its own, helped to offset a significant amount of energy.
“Once we reduced that load it was a lot easier to get (to Net Zero),” Smigelski said.
The production plant is subordinate to Marine Corps Logistics Command, the primary tenant of MCLB Albany.
The Net Zero declaration came once the meter reading was at zero for a year. Georgia Power, once Day 365 had passed, gave the base the thumbs up.
Les Charles, federal, state and military key account manager, Georgia Power, said the utility company has been working with MCLB Albany for a number of years while the installation sought to attain Net Zero status.
“The addition of an 8.5 MW biomass steam turbine generator, or STG, was the final project that aided their efforts,” Charles said. “The STG, along with two landfill gas generators are interconnected with Georgia Power, which allows MCLB to supply most of their energy needs as well as export energy to Georgia Power at times.”
"Much of the effort, accomplishments and time going back a number of years was spent assisting base leadership on projects to help reach this point. We're proud to have played a part,” he added.
Jay Smith, Albany area manager, Georgia Power, said the partnership between MCLB Albany and Georgia Power carries benefits on multiple fronts.
“Georgia Power is excited to work with MCLB as they are a great partner and have a great team not only defending our nation, but also contributing to the prosperity of our region and helping reduce carbon emissions,” Smith said.
In the beginning, a lot of effort went into selling the idea to Pentagon leadership. Smigelski said it was hard to get them to understand what Net Zero was and why it is significant.
“It took about three or four years to get the ball rolling,” he said. “We had to stick with it.”
“It was well worth it. We showed the rest of the DOD we could do it.”
In the end, it all worked out.
“It’s a great feeling,” Smigelski said. “It is a great accomplishment. We did something worthwhile for the Marine Corps. It is a crowning moment for the Marine Corps.”
“I know I had a part in getting there, although many contributed to this project,” he added.
The MCLB Albany Energy Program began in 2005 with the goal of making the installation the first in the Marine Corps to reach Net Zero. On average, MCLB Albany’s consumption peak is 4-6 megawatts in winter and 8-11 megawatts in the summer.
The installation has seen the following achievements over the last several years as a result of energy efficiency efforts:
- Base-wide heating, ventilation and conditioning upgrades. Cost: $1.42 million; annual savings of $386,000
- Geothermal storage heat pumps. Cost: $7.2 million; annual savings of $521,000
- Borehole thermal energy storage. Cost: $5.2 million; annual savings of $224,000
- Energy-savings performance contract for a compressed air/light/infrared heat project. Cost: $14.2 million; annual savings of $1.2 million
- Energy-savings performance contract for the landfill gas generator. Cost: $20.6 million; annual savings of $1.67 million. Completed through a contract with Chevron, it includes three miles of pipeline and a 25-year purchase agreement with Dougherty County for the purchase of methane gas.
- Base-wide LED lighting
The base has 27 diesel backup generators for 7 megawatts of total power generation. Two landfill gas generators produce 4 megawatts. The biomass steam turbine generator located at the nearby Procter & Gamble plant generates 8.5MW of energy with the steam generated from burning biomass.
A contract with Constellation New Energy, awarded Sept. 30, 2016, is valued at $170 million for a 23-year lifespan. This includes two years for construction and 21 years for performance.
The CNE contract brought with it seven energy conservation measures:
- 8.5MW biomass steam turbine generator
- 2.1MW landfill gas generator controls
- Lighting retrofit (10,000K bulbs/132 facilities)
- Four industrial air compressor upgrades
- 68 transformer replacements
- Three boiler mud-drum installations
- Smart micro-grid controls/supervisory control and data acquisition
As of this month, all of these measures apart from the boiler mud-drum installation and smart micro-grid controls were complete.
The contract performance period for which the contractor will be assessed for annual Net Zero achievement is from Feb. 1, 2021 to Feb. 1 of this year. Electricity consumption data is available for the 2021 calendar year. MCLB Albany exported during this time a net total of 7.9MWh to the electrical grid, thus making the installation Net Zero for this period.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Feeney, public works officer, MCLB Albany, said the Navy and Marine Corps were committed in 2009 to meeting five energy goals and provided direction for achieving energy security and independence. One of those goals was to increase alternative energy ashore by making installations Net Zero.
“Net Zero for MCLB Albany means it produces as much electricity in the course of a year from renewable sources on or near the installation as it consumes in its buildings and facilities,” Feeney said. “When the contract is completed, the installation retains all the equipment and costs savings associated with producing its own electricity.”
“These projects provide MCLBA energy security and resiliency,” he added.
The Navy published an energy security framework in 2017 emphasizing objectives to enhance mission assurance through assured energy, defining benchmarks for resiliency, reliability and efficiency necessary for installations to enable assured missions.
Per an executive order issued in December, and through a coordinated whole-of-government approach, the federal government was directed to use its scale and procurement power to achieve 100% percent carbon pollution-free electricity on a net annual basis by 2030, including 50% 24/7 carbon pollution-free electricity. The order further calls for 100% zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035, including 100% zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027.
The Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program, formally known as ECIP, is a subset of the DOD Military Construction Program specifically intended to fund projects that improve energy resilience, contribute to mission assurance, save energy and reduce DOD energy costs. ERCIP accomplishes this through construction of new, high-efficiency energy systems and technologies or through modernizing existing energy systems.
Energy-savings performance contracts facilitate energy savings and improvements with no up-front capital costs or special appropriations from Congress. An ESPC is a partnership between an agency and an energy service company.
Going forward at MCLB Albany, the focus is toward further electrifying the base’s government fleet.
“Next, the installation intends to install 21 chargers at nine locations to service a future all-electric fleet of government vehicles,” Feeney said.
Fitzgerald said the future is likely to build on the current foundations to become more energy efficient. Part of this is the increased effort to bring in electric vehicles.
“Most carbon emissions come from the transportation sector,” the colonel said. “There have been a lot of lessons learned. As we build bases for the future we will know how to use the natural resources in that area.”
Georgia Power is a partner in helping to electrify the MCLB Albany fleet.
“Georgia Power is currently partnering with MCLB to design and install an electric vehicle charging system across the installation,” Charles said.
Net Zero By the Numbers:
- Energy Conservation Measures Implemented – 136
- Pieces of Equipment Involved – 62,585
- Number of Building Improvements – 790
- Annual Savings in MMBtu - 504,626
- Annual Savings - $10,023,631
- Implementation Cost – $152,732,999
- Annual Water Savings gallons – 95,503
- Total Generation at MCLB - 23.7 MW
- Energy and Water Security Projects Planned - $22,526,000 cost with annual savings of $635,000
- Energy and Water Projects Awarded in 2018 - $8,859,000 cost with annual savings of $197,588
- Energy and Water Projects Executed in 2018 - $47,000 cost with annual savings of $122,562 and water savings of 9,300 kg
- Energy Intensity Reduction Progress Baseline – Fiscal Year 2015 to FY 2020 – 28.57%
- Water Intensity Reduction Progress Baseline – FY 2015 to FY 2020 – 54.72%