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Drum, Army seek new energy sources

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WASHINGTON — As the Army looks for ways to power installations more efficiently, Fort Drum may become an example.

The post’s effort to restart its former coal-burning cogeneration plant as a biofuels facility is not occurring in a vacuum; across the Army, commanders are brainstorming about how to trim the billions of dollars the service spends to heat, cool and light its posts and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

“We know we need to increase the resiliency of our installations,” Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, said Tuesday at the annual convention of the Association of the U.S. Army.

The annual meeting continues this week; a few dozen soldiers from Fort Drum and members of Northern New York’s AUSA chapter are attending.

The Army aims to generate as much as 2.1 million megawatt-hours of electricity from renewable sources, Ms. Hammack said. Army Secretary John M. McHugh, who once worked on Fort Drum energy issues as the region’s congressman, this year announced an Energy Initiative Task Force and $7 billion in planned investments in base infrastructure — to be aided by private industry.

Although Army officials touted their efforts, the service’s assistant chief of staff for installation management, Maj. Gen. Al Aycock, acknowledged the Army is playing catch-up and is “well behind” goals set by the Defense Department and Congress.

“We have to put a dollar in and get two dollars out on energy,” Gen. Aycock said. “We have to think of energy in a completely different manner.”

In some ways, he suggested, the Army does not even know exactly what it needs to do or how to pay for it and will look to utility companies to offer ideas.

The Army already has about 100 buildings that are certified as “green,” or certified as meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design criteria. Some 1,600 buildings are registered to become certified, Ms. Hammack said.

At Fort Drum, new housing is being built to energy efficiency standards; Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes, builder of the newest units, will receive an award next week from the U.S. Department of Energy for the 917 homes it built to LEED certification standards in fiscal 2010.

Those homes will save more than $568,000 in gas and electricity costs annually over comparable leased housing, the department said.

The energy-efficient home construction at Drum is the biggest such project in New York, said Joseph E. McLaughlin, project director and president of the Northern New York chapter of AUSA.

The biggest step at Drum may be yet to come, as ReEnergy Black River LLC refines plans to convert the plant to renewable fuels such as wood chips and tires. The New York Public Service Commission approved the sale of the plant to a parent company, ReEnergy Holdings, in August.

Fort Drum is supplied now through a two-year contract with Constellation New Energy and pays transmission charges to National Grid. The post consumes about 28 megawatts of electricity, comparable to the city of Watertown.

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