Active Efficiency in Action

The best way to understand the value of Active Efficiency is to see it in action. There are many examples that demonstrate the potential of Active Efficiency. Between the economic, social, and environmental benefits, the hard work that goes into making these examples successful is something to be celebrated.

Battery Energy Storage System at Fort Carson

Shaving Peaks & Energy Costs

Fort Carson integrates traditional energy efficiency with battery storage and peak-shaving controls. This combination of technologies saves Fort Carson more than $500,000 a year on its electric bill by optimizing energy use in a time-dependent manner – that’s Active Efficiency in action.

Home to more than 13,000 troops and 982 facilities, the Fort Carson military base is the 10th largest military site in the U.S. At 14.8 million square feet, its on-peak demand rate is a costly $17,000 per on-peak MW. The base needed to take on the enormous task of powering hundreds of facilities affordably and turned to Active Efficiency solutions to make it happen.

Fort Carson had already adopted an array of energy efficiency measures like lighting and HVAC improvements along with smart energy management controls. But it needed to do more. In 2018, the base’s energy management team invested in an 8.5 MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) designed, furnished, and installed by Lockheed Martin to take a time-dependent approach to managing their energy demand. Time dependency – in this case strategically charging and discharging the BESS in response to fluctuating electricity prices – is a core component of Active Efficiency.

The BESS uses a predictive modeling system to forecast electrical grid demand peaks. Based on these forecasts and relative energy costs, the BESS control mechanisms initiate charging and discharging cycles to minimize energy costs or achieve energy arbitrage. The control technology automates this process as well as the rate of energy transfer between the battery and the base, providing up to 4.2 MW of demand reduction and allowing a great degree of flexibility in meeting the base’s energy needs. The BESS is expected to save Fort Carson more than $500,000 on its annual electric bill.

The BESS’s predictive modeling system continually learns from Fort Carson’s energy usage patterns to improve its capabilities. Its controls decisions are informed by several sets of data, including:

  • Real-time demand 
  • Rate of change in system demand
  • Outside air temperature
  • Historical trends that help predict the peak that day

What makes Fort Carson’s Active Efficiency strategy a success?

  • Multi-stakeholder collaboration. Coordination among the team of partners, including Lockheed Martin, AECOM, and Geli, was critical for executing the design and implementation of this project. Lockheed Martin designed, manufactured, and installed the energy storage units; AECOM designed and implemented the BESS; and Geli designed the peak-shaving control system.
  • Management buy-in. Fort Carson’s energy management team has long recognized the value of energy efficiency for cost savings and resilience. It has achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for more than 80 of its facilities. Each newly constructed facility is required to achieve at least LEED Silver certification – one level higher than the base level certification. The energy efficiency measures deployed at Fort Carson set the stage for the BESS’s impact by allowing the BESS to shift a larger proportion of the base’s energy load due to overall reduced demand.

“The most cost-effective and resilient energy we have is the energy we don’t use. You’re more resilient when you need less of something.”

-Vince Guthrie, Utility Programs Manager, Fort Carson

  • Access to third-party review of the design proposal. Many applications of emerging technologies are not widely tested in the field. This creates a perception of risk that can serve as a major barrier for the adoption of new technologies, including smart and connected technologies that enable Active Efficiency. To help mitigate risk concerns, Fort Carson engaged the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to help verify AECOM’s design and the estimated savings of the BESS. Tasked with helping federal agencies reach their energy goals, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program funded NREL’s independent review.
  • Low-risk funding mechanism. Fort Carson entered an energy savings performance contract with AECOM, which guarantees the BESS’s performance for its lifetime. The contract ensures that Fort Carson can pay back its investment using the cost savings achieved by the BESS. In other words, if the savings achieved by the BESS in a year are less than predicted, then Fort Carson can pay back less on the BESS investment that year.

What challenges are involved in scaling up this Active Efficiency strategy?

  • Battery life. As with any battery, the amount of energy that can be discharged from the BESS will degrade over time. However, this constraint is expected to lessen over the coming years. Due to research and development advances, the duration of battery storage continues to increase even as the cost of batteries decreases. BloombergNEF reports that it is already cheaper to build battery storage than to build peaking plants.
  • Battery availability. There are several types of battery chemistries available on the market. BESSs with lithium ion chemistries are often used for grid applications due to their relatively high power density. However, the availability of the raw material required to create the lithium ion cathode is limited.
  • Development of safety standards. The industry is currently creating safety standards for BESS installations. While test protocols (UL-9540A) have been developed to ensure safety of BESS design, the protocols assess the degree to which a fire may propagate within a BESS and do not impose design standards. Similarly, local fire codes are emerging to define installation standards, but the lack of a national code complicates cross-jurisdictional operations for BESS developers and installers. Lockheed Martin is close to completing the installation of additional safety enhancements beyond the current set of standards to help ensure a safe system.
  • Long time horizons. Emerging technologies typically have long payback periods, so entities with longevity and predictability in their operations – like Fort Carson – are well-suited to pilot Active Efficiency strategies and pave the way for future adopters. At the grid scale, batteries present enormous potential to store renewable energy and deploy during peak periods as needed.