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Detrick seeks comments on NetZero plans

By Megan Eckstein

Sunday - 8/14/2011, 6:47am  ET

Fort Detrick is beginning to outline its plan to reduce energy use and create its own renewable energy on post, the first steps in becoming a NetZero Army installation by 2020.

The garrison was selected in April to be one of five pilot sites in the NetZero energy and waste programs. To become a NetZero energy location, Fort Detrick must create as much energy on post as it consumes. To be a NetZero waste location, it must eliminate its landfill use by increasing recycling and composting and reducing waste levels.

As an early step in the process, garrison officials released a Programmatic Environmental Assessment, outlining the environmental impacts of general measures they are considering.

"Right now, none of the projects are developed, they're all concepts," Fort Detrick spokesman Rob Sperling said.

To help flesh out an outline about how to proceed in reducing energy usage and harvesting renewable energy, Sperling said Fort Detrick officials are trying now more than ever to solicit ideas from the public during the report's 30-day comment period.

"We have this mantra of, what are we doing right? What are we missing?" Sperling said, saying that the garrison staff is very smart but doesn't have all the answers.

Because Fort Detrick and the other pilot sites don't receive any funding for participation in the NetZero program, they must start saving money on their energy bill before they can spend any money on solar panels, wind turbines and other energy-generating products.

One idea that Fort Detrick will almost certainly implement is a more effective steam distribution system. Currently, steam travels from the boiler plant through 3.3 miles of overhead piping and 5.1 miles of underground piping. The steam cools along the way, and in some cases the pipes have leaks that make the system even less efficient. Sperling said the post is looking to decentralize steam production, reducing the opportunity to lose steam between production and usage.

Zoned heating and air conditioning in buildings, motion censors to control lights, and low-flow toilets are also likely parts of the post's conservation measures. Sperling said the savings will add up quickly if the Army isn't paying to heat storage closets or light deserted hallways, and that money can be used to finance the rest of the NetZero actions.

Sperling said Fort Detrick officials are a long way from determining whether solar or wind energy will be a better option and where specifically they would place the devices to harvest that energy. Officials are still working on big-picture ideas, he said, and once this initial environmental assessment is over they'll be looking to hire a contractor to help research and implement the ideas on saving and creating energy.

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