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Helping the Air Force save energy

Demonstrating energy-saving technologies, forward operating base of the future

It’s a “beast” of a program that researchers in the Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Dayton Research Institute believe will save energy, cost and even lives. At the Joint Base San Antonio’s Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training (BEAST) facility March 22, researchers from AFRL’s Advanced Power Technology Office and UDRI launched a yearlong program to demonstrate new energy technologies designed to significantly reduce the amount of diesel fuel needed to power remote military installations, known as forward operating bases – or FOBs.

The FOB of the Future program, now underway at the BEAST, will use energy-efficient insulation and lighting, improved HVAC systems and smart controllers, advanced batteries for energy storage and delivery, solar cells and other technologies to generate and manage cleaner energy while reducing energy demand and environmental impact.

In addition to yielding cost savings, the technologies employed at the FOB of the Future may ultimately save lives. “By the nature of their remote locations, forward operating bases rely heavily on power generators fueled by diesel, which has to be delivered by convoy. Reducing the need for diesel means fewer service men and women will be put in harm’s way when traveling through or to hazardous environments,” said Will Lauwers, a research engineer in the University of Dayton Research Institute’s Energy Technologies & Materials division and a member of the UDRI team responsible for developing and installing the microgrid under contract to AFRL.

The BEAST, a basic-training site designed to help prepare Air Force trainees for service in FOBs, is divided into four camps. Led by Lauwers and senior research engineer Eric Lang, UDRI researchers converted the power supply at one of the camps from standard utilities to the upgraded technologies, which they will monitor for the next year using wireless meters.

“We also installed wireless meters at one of the other camps at the BEAST that is still powered solely by standard utility,” Lauwers said. “The meters will gather and provide real-time power and energy data, allowing us to do a side-by-side comparison of energy use at the two camps. The goal is to provide the Air Force with valuable information about how much the new technologies can reduce demand for external energy sources while providing cleaner, renewable and resilient energy, allowing bases to continue operating even if traditional power sources are disrupted.”

Research and development in advanced energy technologies at UDRI has grown significantly in the last 10 years, fueled primarily by Air Force sponsorship. In the last five years alone, the Energy Technologies and Materials division has more than doubled its research staff to help meet the growing demand for cleaner and alternative energy storage, management and power resources.

April 20, 2016

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