Sunday, February 27, 2011

Inspector General Report on DOD-wide Energy Efficient Technology Projects

In its report called Defense-Wide Research and Development Near Term Energy-Efficient Technologies Projects (February 18, 2011) Inspector General of the Department of Defense reviewed the planning, funding, contracting, and initial execution of 15 DOD-wide Near Term Energy-Efficient Technologies program research and development projects, valued at $72.94 million.

Inspector General reviewed these projects to ensure that they were complied with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 requirements, Office of Management and Budget guidance, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and DoD implementing guidance. In other words, whether they were in line with the formalities. Of course they were. Inspector General only notes that contracting and transparency could be improved.

Here are the projects:

1. Materials – Ceramic Matrix Composites: These are high-temperature materials that are replacing metals in high-temperature components of turbine engines and nuclear reactors. They are more lightweight and last longer than metals but cost more to manufacture at the present time because the technology is just now being scaled up. ($4.86 million)

2. Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrators: designing and fabricating one full scale vehicle system demonstrator. This vehicle is utilizing fuel efficient technologies by maximizing fuel economy. ($8.75 million).

3. Energy Modeling: developing a fully burdened cost-of-fuel analysis tool. This is enabling the Army Contracting Command National Capital Region Contracting Center to predict the fuel consumption of all its vehicles for different scenarios with more accuracy ($1.60 million)

4. Continuous Building Commissioning: demonstrating monitoring systems capable of identifying, classifying, and quantifying energy and water consumption deviations from design intent or optimal usage. This project is identifying the causes of those deviations, and recommending, prioritizing, and implementing corrective actions. ($6.80 million)

5. Energy Enterprise Management: assessing, evaluating, and prototyping an energy enterprise management application that can be used from the building level, all the way up to the Office of the Secretary of Defense level, to manage and aggregate energy data and to affect technology information transfer. ($1.94 million)

6. Solid Waste Gasification: validating a Waste-to-Energy Conversion system capable of converting combustible municipal solid waste and biomass, such as plant materials, into electricity and heat on permanent DoD installations ($2.92 million)

7. Anaerobic Digester Technology: demonstrating anaerobic digestion of food and associated wastes for generating renewable energy in the form of biogas. ($1.94 million)

8. Landfill Gas Energy Capture: Landfills produce waste gas streams containing methane that is often vented, flared, or otherwise destroyed. This project is generating electrical power from these landfill gases. ($2.43 million)

9. Wind Lift Power Generator: The Wind Lift Power Generator is using a kite-like apparatus to harness the power of the wind. The harnessed wind is being converted into usable energy and stored in batteries that can be used to power lights, refrigerators, fans, etc. ($0.97 million)

10. Mobile Waste to Energy: assessing technology that converts waste to liquid fuel in a scalable mobile unit that could potentially be used at forward operating bases. ($7.31 million)

11. Energy Improvement Initiative: researching and developing high efficiency solar cells. This effort will produce a solar power demonstration, providing a significant power generation capability of new high-efficiency solar cells. ($3.89 million)

12. Algal Derived Biofuel Program: evaluating technology to increase the production of algae-derived fuels and to support the Military Services’ test and certification programs. ($ 5.85 million)

13. Plasma Fusion: developing a machine that uses magnetic fields to contain a cloud of electrons. The cloud of electrons establishes an electric field that will be used to accelerate positively charged ions of fusible material. ($1.94 million)

14. Fuel Cells: developing a fuel cell battery source capable of a 300-watt output. This fuel cell reduces the size and weight of past designs while increasing the reliability, durability, and service life. ($18.47 million)

15. Tactical, Deployable Micro-Grid: Micro-grid technology improves security, reliability, and efficiency of DoD power management, thus reducing energy costs and the carbon footprint. Renewable electrical power generation can come from a variety of distributed generation sources. ($3.26 million)

These are good developments. The contracts were awarded according to the rules. But who will control and judge whether they are executed correctly and will deliver tangible results? What happens when the result is “sorry, we tried but it didn’t work”?

To me this kind of answer would still be OK if the institution carrying out the project is a military or government institution. If they are carried out by private bodies than I would ask: Do the contractors take any risk? If not, can we consider the project as business creation with guaranteed revenue?



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