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ORNL tests energy-efficient technologies for expeditionary military bases in the tropics

 

Over the summer, ORNL researchers tested the performance of various tent configurations and HVAC units in an outdoor environment as part of the Transformative Reductions in Operational Energy Consumption pproject. Over the summer, ORNL researchers tested the performance of various tent configurations and HVAC units in an outdoor environment as part of the Transformative Reductions in Operational Energy Consumption pproject. (hi-res image)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory took advantage of Tennessee’s sweltering summer weather to assess energy-saving technologies for use on expeditionary military bases in the tropical Asia-Pacific region.

Expeditionary bases generally begin as short-term tent cities, but many evolve over time into semi-permanent settlements.  These sites are often heavily dependent on fossil-fueled generators to power space cooling, laundry, water treatment, computers, lighting and other mission-essential systems.

The U.S. Pacific Command and ORNL are leading the Transformative Reductions in Operational Energy Consumption (TROPEC) project to evaluate and demonstrate innovative technologies that can dramatically reduce energy use at expeditionary bases in the PACOM area of responsibility. The program, which is unique in its focus on tropical climates, is targeted at demonstrating equipment and operational solutions that in combination can reduce energy consumption by 50 percent on expeditionary bases by 2016. The TROPEC team also includes the Marine Forces Pacific Experimentation Center for field demonstration support and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to support technology evaluations.

Over the summer, ORNL researchers tested the performance of various tent configurations and HVAC units in an outdoor environment. The lab’s location enables researchers to realistically simulate tropical climates where the technologies could be implemented.

“When you map East Tennessee’s summer over Bangkok’s annual weather data, they match perfectly,” said ORNL researcher and TROPEC project manager Terry Sharp. “This means we have a local tropical window to proof solutions.”

Part of the evaluation process involves suggestions to technology submitters on how they can improve their products to make them more successful in a military application in a tropical environment. The extreme conditions of the tropics can significantly alter a technology’s performance and function.

“Unlike arid environments where temperatures reach 125 °F with little humidity, tropical environments can reach 95 °F with 50 to 95 percent humidity consistently and have vegetation that can interfere with solar capabilities,” Sharp said.

Depending on technology performance in lab-based testing, promising innovations can be fast-tracked for field demonstration in military exercises in tropical locations such as Thailand, the Philippines and Guam. A successful demonstration paves the way for quicker uptake of vendor products by the military.

Results from a 2012 TROPEC field test have already proven the potential for large energy reductions. For example, an experimental tent/HVAC combination reduced energy use by 79 percent compared to a configuration with standard tent, legacy HVAC system, and conventional lighting.

The TROPEC team continues to cast a wide net for energy-saving solutions through its Innovations Network, where inventors and companies are encouraged to submit their energy-saving concepts for consideration. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis at http://tropec.net/I-NetApplication.shtml.

“Anyone from garage tinkerers to established vendors to scientists in a national laboratory or university are invited to submit their ideas or products,” Sharp said. “We’re evaluating innovations today that will provide near-term solutions for the energy and associated logistical challenges our military expeditionary bases face now and in the future.”

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov. --Written by Joshua Haston

 -  Morgan McCorkle,  865.574.7308,  September 26, 2013
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