Panama City Engineers Develop Tools to Reduce USMC Energy Consumption

Story Number: NNS130711-08Release Date: 7/11/2013 12:14:00 PM
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From Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Public Affairs

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Panama City engineers are developing tools to enable U.S. Marine Expeditionary Forces to more accurately predict energy consumption needs in theater, the Navy announced July 11.

NSWC Panama City engineers were asked by Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYCOM) to reduce the energy consumption of Marine Corps Combat Operations Centers, which are mobile, modular command and control centers designed to support deployed Marine units.

Together, leaders from MARCORSYCOM and NSWC Panama City analyzed the operations centers and noted that almost 70 percent of all the energy was being used to heat and cool the shelters. The engineers thought there was a better way.

In July 2012, Steve Gorin, Expeditionary Systems Division senior systems engineer, visited National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located in Golden, Colo., to determine if they might be able to help. The lab had developed a heat transfer model used for building evaluations that Panama City wanted to try on the shelters. NREL conducted the modeling and NSWC Panama City conducted the validation testing. The model proved to be highly accurate, with the prediction varying from the measured temperatures by less than one degree Celsius over the span of several days.

Since heating and cooling of the shelter was where the majority of the energy was consumed, that is where the team focused their efforts. The physics-based shelter model was able to test variables such as shelter material, colors, radiant barriers, air vents, shades and air infiltration rates to determine their effects.

Panama City engineers evaluated many variances, one being how much air is being lost due to air gaps in shelter assembly and opening the flap of the doors. What they discovered with a tracer gas test was that the infiltration rate was 10 times greater with one door unzipped than with the tent sealed. NREL engineers modeled a shelter with a radiant barrier, and the model predicted a 26 percent heating or air conditioning saving for a year through its use. Further efforts are underway to determine additional means to reduce energy consumption.

"This new computerized model allows users to incorporate shades, radiant barriers and tent colors into the heat transfer calculations to determine the need for heating and air conditioning," said Gorin.

Since the model utilizes a weather input file, it can predict tent temperatures anywhere in the world, allowing field units to predict supply needs before deployment. Gorin said the new algorithm and model have been shared with the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army for consideration.

Gorin's team has further expanded their efforts using the computerized model that allows them to predict energy consumption in theater and has built an energy compound in Panama City, Fla., that incorporates energy technologies with the potential to further improve field tactics.

"We're also looking at hybrid energy systems that will enable the U.S. Marines and the Army to match their supplies to demand," he said. "Unlike your house where you only pay for the energy you consume, the military fires up a generator that frequently is lightly loaded and wastes energy. The hybrid system's aim is to use the generators efficiently by turning the generators off when not needed and using stored or renewable power."

The energy team is presently completing an analysis of alternatives for hybrid power systems that will result in new power systems for the U.S. Marine Corps. One of the hybrid solutions is a U.S. Army micro-grid that utilizes six 60 kw generators that are switched on or off as needed. NSWC Panama City is expected to receive a U.S. Army micro grid for project testing this summer.

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