Army seeks clean energy with new power station

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Army, gov­ern­ment and pri­vate indus­try lead­ers came togeth­er last week to cel­e­brate the start­up of a sys­tem at Fort Benning’s land­fill designed to cap­ture methane and con­vert it to elec­tric­i­ty.

A pow­er sta­tion designed to cap­ture methane and turn it into elec­tric­i­ty was installed at a land­fill on Fort Ben­ning, Ga.
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Flex­En­er­gy Inc. has suc­cess­ful­ly installed its first com­mer­cial order of the Flex Pow­er­sta­tion FP250 on Har­mo­ny Church. Offi­cials said the South­ern Research Insti­tute select­ed the pow­er sta­tion under a demon­stra­tion pro­gram fund­ed by the Depart­ment of Defense’s Envi­ron­men­tal Secu­ri­ty Tech­nol­o­gy Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram, which seeks inno­v­a­tive and cost-effec­tive meth­ods to address envi­ron­men­tal and ener­gy priorities. 

A cer­e­mo­ni­al rib­bon cut­ting took place Nov. 8 at the site. 

“It’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to pro­mote and devel­op clean, renew­able ener­gy,” said Col. Jef­frey Fletch­er, the gar­ri­son com­man­der. “This col­lab­o­ra­tion rep­re­sents a very impor­tant step and promis­es a more sus­tain­able ener­gy future. It shows Fort Ben­ning has a true com­mit­ment and pledge toward envi­ron­men­tal stewardship.” 

The pow­er sta­tion will turn vent­ing gas from the land­fill into enough renew­able elec­tric­i­ty to pow­er the equiv­a­lent of 250 homes a year, said Stephen John­son, with Flex­En­er­gy. The project’s price tag was about $1 million. 

“Yes, I am excit­ed to be on a land­fill demon­strat­ing a fan­tas­tic tech­nol­o­gy. We are wit­ness­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty in action,” John­son said. “We’re tak­ing waste gas and con­vert­ing it into ener­gy and elec­tric­i­ty with vir­tu­al­ly zero emis­sions from harm­ful green­house gas­es. It’s excit­ing. We’re help­ing to deliv­er envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, ener­gy and nation­al secu­ri­ty, and eco­nom­ic prosperity.” 

The plant could be refined to a “pol­lu­tion con­trol device” that poten­tial­ly pays for itself in less than six years, John­son said. By com­par­i­son, the pay­back on an aver­age wind­mill takes as long as three decades. 

Richard Kidd, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Army for ener­gy and sus­tain­abil­i­ty, said the branch spent almost $4 bil­lion on ener­gy dur­ing fis­cal 2010. The Army is the largest con­sumer of elec­tric­i­ty with­in the entire fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, and most of it’s expend­ed at the instal­la­tion level. 

“Our elec­tric bill cap­tures all the chal­lenges our fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has to meet — and then some,” he said. 

Today’s Army must make deci­sions to pre­serve land, water and resources, Kidd said, adding it’s “mis­sion crit­i­cal” for oper­a­tions at home and over­seas. It has more than 140 renew­able ener­gy projects under way. 

“The chal­lenge for the Army is to ramp these up and make them a more promi­nent fea­ture on our instal­la­tions,” he said. 

The new pow­er sta­tion will account for only about 1 per­cent of the post’s elec­tri­cal sup­ply, but it’s a start, said Fort Ben­ning Ener­gy Man­ag­er Ver­non Duck. The Ener­gy Pol­i­cy Act of 2005 now requires all gov­ern­ment instal­la­tions to use or con­sume at least 5 per­cent of their elec­tric­i­ty from “green ener­gy” resources. That man­date will go up to 7.5 per­cent in fis­cal 2013. 

He said Fort Ben­ning isn’t meet­ing the man­date now — actu­al “green pow­er” pro­duc­tion here is 0.71 per­cent, but the report­ed fig­ure is 1.41 per­cent. By law, mil­i­tary bases may dou­ble their report­ed out­put if the ener­gy source sits on instal­la­tion prop­er­ty. It’s aimed at get­ting gov­ern­ment facil­i­ties to seek alter­na­tives by invest­ing more in “green ener­gy” solu­tions, he said. 

Duck said this unique waste-to-ener­gy solu­tion deliv­ers on the grow­ing promise of renew­able energy’s inte­gra­tion into the pow­er grid. 

“Fort Ben­ning is aggres­sive­ly seek­ing ‘green ener­gy’ alter­na­tives to put in place on the instal­la­tion,” he said. “We will use the clean elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­at­ed on-site to pow­er our inter­nal oper­a­tions and help reach the DOD’s ener­gy inde­pen­dence, renew­able ener­gy and sus­tain­abil­i­ty goals.” 

With the mil­i­tary fac­ing con­strained bud­gets in the future, this brand of inno­va­tion will reduce the Army’s car­bon foot­print and bot­tom line while enhanc­ing ener­gy secu­ri­ty, effi­cien­cy and inde­pen­dence, said Jef­frey Mar­qusee, the ESTCP head and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Strate­gic Envi­ron­men­tal Research and Devel­op­ment Program. 

“It’s a great tes­ta­ment this thing is up and oper­at­ing — it’s some­thing we can bring to oth­er instal­la­tions,” he said. “We think this is one of many part­ner­ships we’ll have between DOD, our instal­la­tions and the pri­vate sector.” 

The new pow­er sta­tion fin­ished ini­tial oper­a­tions tests in mid-August, pro­duc­ing up to 250 net kilo­watts of renew­able ener­gy, accord­ing to a news release. After a final set of land­fill oper­a­tion inte­gra­tion eval­u­a­tions over the next two weeks, the sys­tem will gen­er­ate renew­able elec­tric­i­ty full time. 

As part of the instal­la­tion test bed pro­gram, the South­ern Research Insti­tute will ver­i­fy sys­tem func­tions, mea­sure envi­ron­men­tal and ener­gy ben­e­fits, and doc­u­ment the company’s track record. 

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