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Robyn: Defense Department Fills Void in Clean Energy Testing

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2012 – The Defense Department continues to develop innovative methods of creating and using clean energy to power its buildings and installations, as well as serve as a test bed for the civilian community, a senior Defense Department official said yesterday.

Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told an audience during the Clean Defense Energy Summit here, that DOD has used a test program since 2009 to lead the charge in developing clean energy methods.

“It was created by a national treasure of a guy on my staff, named Jeff Marqusee, who runs our environmental [research and development] programs,” she said.

“[He] has done something very similarly in the environmental area using our installations as a test bed for precommercial environmental technology and has just scored some huge successes,” she said. “So I think that we can play a very powerful role here.”

There is a “valley of depth” in energy technology for which the test bed can fill in some ground, Robyn said.

“Because we have 300,000 buildings, it’s in our self-interest to try to help get technology through that valley of depth -- to get companies over that hurdle,” she said.

“And the way we do that is by consciously taking on that risk as a busy, first adopter,” Robyn added. “It’s in our interests. If I test 10 new technologies, and seven of them work and three don’t, I can deploy the seven that work very broadly and come out way ahead.”

Few building owners have enough properties to be in that position, except for retail giant Wal-Mart, she said. “And Wal-Mart, not surprisingly, has its own energy test beds. But it’s focused solely on big-box stores whereas ours is broader than that.”

The test bed awards $30 million annually, and last year received 600 proposals for 27 projects, Robyn explained.

“It was intensely competitive,” she said. “But it’s a pretty painless process.”

Robyn also discussed a micro turbine technology being tested at Fort Benning, Ga., that could also prove to be useful for other industrial corporations.

“We have a lot of very old landfills,” she said. “We can no longer generate electricity from the methane coming out these landfills.”

“In fact, we have to flare off the methane which actually consumes energy,” Robyn noted. “If this technology works … at Fort Benning right now, it’s producing electricity out of this very low quality, low BTU methane gas.”

Robyn said the technology will be tested a few more months to ensure there is no negative on area wildlife.

“This is the great joy of … demonstration and validation – you never know what you’re going to encounter,” she said. “But it looks like it’s going to be a winner. And there are a lot of people watching this, and if it works here it will at dozens of other DOD landfills.”

Dorothy Robyn

Related Sites:
Special Report: DOD Goes Green
Special Report: Energy for the Warfighter

Related Articles:
Pentagon Official Lauds Services for Energy Strategies

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