Constructing Energy Improvements in Wiesbaden

This article first appeared in The Military Engineer, Vol. 114, No. 739, May-June 2022, pages 51-52. Read Here

By Mike House, M.SAME

Constructing Energy Improvements in Wiesbaden
An energy savings performance contract carried out at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden resulted in the successful delivery of much-needed energy-efficient improvements through an innovative financing initiative using local currency.

Competition for appropriated funding to modernize military base infrastructure is challenging given the ever-increasing demands placed on the services. But innovative delivery approaches are emerging to aid in achieving both modernization and resiliency and efficiency goals.

An energy savings performance contract (ESPC) initiated by staff with the Directorate of Public Works at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, stands out as a recent success story for the possibilities of budget-neutral financed initiatives. Recognized with a 2021 Federal Energy Management Program award in the Project category, the unique pilot project carried out a number of energy efficiency improvements and is on track to exceed its $21.7 million in guaranteed energy savings (not including construction savings) with a simple payback of less than 14 years and a performance term of 21 years.

System updates underway

The legacy heating plant at McCully Barracks on the installation operated on three unreliable 1980s-era boilers that serviced 38 buildings in a three-ring system architecture. All the boilers supplied a centralized distribution system. Any unplanned maintenance or disruption to service posed a significant risk to drinking water, as it meant the loss of heat to burn off bacteria. Every facet of the system architecture was outdated and unsustainable. A development plan was put into place to address these concerns, and in 2017 construction began. During the construction phase, this energy conservation measure alone generated over $275,000 in verified savings.

For the renovated heating plant, a team led by Siemens Government Technologies installed a four-module system to replace the outdated boilers. The first system module was a Sokratherm Model GG98 CHP to provide 100-kWe and 162-kWth (552,700-BTUH) of heat with a nominal efficiency of 93 percent. Sized to augment the boiler system, the combined heat and power unit also generated .8-MWh of electrical power annually. Additional heating plant improvements included three new natural gas boilers sized at .6-, 1.3-, and 1.6-MW.

System updates underway

The combined heat and power and high-efficiency boilers are integrated by a smart integrated building management platform that monitors historical usage, outdoor temperature, return water temperature, weather data, and other parameters. The platform can calculate real-time heating demand while recruiting the most efficient system modules for the load. The system is connected through a centralized distribution manifold, incorporating electronic valves that regulate hot-water distribution as needed. An optimized routine raises the temperature for one hour per week to provide burn-off protection against the buildup of waterborne pathogens without wasting unnecessary energy.

Along with these smart technologies, the new combined heat and power plant incorporates clean-burning natural gas and is constantly monitored to reduce environmental impact. Redundancy is a core component of the new system design, and maintenance can be performed at any time without compromising safety, efficiency, or system reliability. Additional redundancy is incorporated through legacy oil tanks. The new dual-fuel-capable boilers allow oil to be used as an emergency fuel source in the event of an interruption to the natural gas supply.

During the 26-month construction term, $433,000 of verified savings were realized, more than doubling the estimated construction savings of $204,000.

By using euros in the financing, the installation will save over $3.5 million in interest cost and two years in term. Overall, the project is expected to exceed its $21.7 million in guaranteed energy savings.

Powering capabilities

In addition to the updates to the heating plant for McCully Barracks, more than 2,500 high-efficiency solar modules were installed, with the goal of doubling overall renewable energy generation. The solar photovoltaics exceeded expectations— generating .730-MWh and adding .791-MW peak direct generation capability.

The original fluorescents at Wiesbaden were also in need of an update, as they needed continuous maintenance, which led to substantial operating and labor costs. To address this, the team replaced around 4,800 interior light fixtures with high-efficiency, low-maintenance LEDs and advanced lighting controls. The fixtures installed at Wiesbaden have a 15-year life span, superior illumination, are environmentally safe, produce virtually zero ultraviolet, turn on instantly, and reduce heat emission. LED lighting helped to reduce facility maintenance costs by an estimated $97,000 annually.

Innovative financing

Innovation is not limited to technology alone. This ESPC was the first time that Siemens Government Technologies used local international currency on a U.S. federal project.

Working with a team of financing experts, including representatives from DZ Bank and United Financial of Illinois, the use of euros afforded a natural currency hedge at the lowest available market rate, saving the garrison over $3.5 million in interest cost and two years in financing term. Reduced interest cost and a shorter term means more energy efficiency and resiliency buying power, which directly contributes toward Army equipment modernization efforts and carbon reduction goals. With a fully financed project that includes engineering, procurement, installation, warranty, and maintenance planning for the 21-year term, the initiative also reduces the staff time dedicated to maintenance and servicing, freeing up resources to address other pressing priorities.

Meeting sustainability

The Army’s recently released Climate Strategy includes three lines of effort and a host of intermediate objectives to ensure that the service will be resilient and sustainable into the future. With ambitious targets that include a microgrid on every installation by 2035, 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030, and a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 2032, there is considerable work to do with little time.

A key concern to meet these goals, however, is funding. As the Wiesbaden project demonstrated, ESPCs are an effective means to initiate infrastructure modernization and energy efficiency efforts absent designated funding and should be used to help the Army meet its critically important climate goals. The early success of this project is being modeled as a means for the Army to leverage ESPCs for its goals to address infrastructure deficiencies, while implement- ing higher-efficiency, low-emission, self-generation power solutions that lead to greater resiliency and lower maintenance burdens.

Mike House, M.SAME, is Vice President, Infrastructure & Energy Solutions, Siemens Government Technologies;
Federal Energy and Water Management Award Winner

This program was selected as a Department of Energy 2021 Federal Energy and Water Management Award Winner, Project Category.