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NEWS | Oct. 29, 2020

Army Reserve highlights “Energy Action Month” with energy independence

By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta 63rd Readiness Division

October is the Army’s “Energy Action Month,” and the Army Reserve is focused on energy resilience, efficiency and affordability.

Energy touches nearly every aspect of the Army Reserve’s operational and strategic mission readiness.

One Army Reserve energy resilience highlight is the 63d Readiness Division’s planning process as the first Army Reserve RD to build, test and employ a unique photovoltaic microgrid to support geographic readiness, to increase energy independence and reduce reliance on the heavily taxed California power grid.

This cutting edge photovoltaic array of “solar panels,” will sit on top of the 63d RD headquarters building, where it will draw energy from the sun and store it in supersized batteries.

There will also be diesel generators to back up the back-up solar powered energy system.

These backup power systems can support division operations for up to 14 days, if the unit "falls off" the California power grid.

Project construction is projected to begin in late 2021 and will go “online,” sometime in 2022 or 2023.

The Army Reserve Energy and Water Program's strategy focuses on achieving energy security and the 63rd Readiness Division is driven to achieve this goal through greater energy independence and resilience initiatives.

The Department of Defense fiscal year 2021 budget through the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program allocated 9.7 million dollars to the installation of the microgrid controller with 750 Kw PV with 750 Kwh battery storage and 800 Kw generator system at the 63d RD headquarters.

“The ERCIP program is actually a DOD centralized program. It’s a separate appropriation,” said Col. Martin Naranjo, the Director of Public Works at the 63d RD,” its main focus is energy resilience projects.”

The DOD ERCIP program funds specific projects throughout the U.S. military that improve energy resilience, conserve power, reduce DOD energy costs, contribute to mission readiness and can sustain ongoing operations in the face of adversaries and natural or man-made disasters, for example earthquakes and wildfires in California, specifically.

“This project was submitted within the last couple years to/through that program,” said Naranjo, who is also a regional engineer.

It was approved by the Army and DoD and it’s been accepted for funding, he added.

"Right now, we are in the process of doing our design work on that project, consisting of an array that will provide energy resilience here at the 63d RD, said Naranjo. “The direct impact for the 63d RD, is we are going to have,” a building that is a safe-haven.

“If nature or adversaries try to impact our ability to operate,” we’ll always be able to be on the grid and provide power to execute our mission, he added.

This system will keep the lights on and the computers running, which allows the Army Reserve to stay ready, resilient and carry out it’s mission if the power goes out in California.

“If there is an all-hazards response that the 63d RD needs to be a part of,” Naranjo said, “whether that be the ‘Big One’ (earthquake) that hits California or responding to other natural disasters here within the region and the power goes down outside, the microgrid is going to give us the ability to maintain operations within the facility and be able to continue to execute our mission across the seven state region. That’s what the project does for us and our down trace units. It enables the headquarters to stay operational.”

Another benefit of the 63d RD’s new microgrid is, “if were producing our own power, we’re going to see diminished energy costs for this facility for the future,” Naranjo said. “The microgrid gives us the ability, that whether the outside power is on or off, for us to be able to continue to function.”

But the biggest benefit to the 63d RD, “is the operational benefit,” Naranjo said, “for us is just to be able to have assured power to execute our mission. Whenever we need to be able to stand up critical operations and execute missions we will be able to operate seamlessly out of this site.”

The Army as a whole, knows that we’re going to be on the grid and able, as a safe haven, where the lights will be on, computers will be operating, our networks will be working, he added.

The 63d RD is in the early phases of developing this project, according to Naranjo.

“We’re going to be meeting with the (Army) Corps of Engineers, who are the lead agency in developing a design and completing this energy independence project,” Naranjo said.

He estimates the entire design and bid process will be tentatively completed and ready for construction to start by next summer, in 2021.

“Just having that assured power is a very important thing for us,” said Naranjo, “ (there is) so much that we do at the headquarters in providing readiness to the region, we must be able to communicate and operate at the headquarters without challenge.

“So much of what we do relies on power and energy,” he added.