Officials with the Army's Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground and the energy firm Constellation Retail recently signed a three-year agreement to explore alternative energy sources for the Harford County Army post as leaders across the military and federal government look for ways to reduce the amount of energy used at their facilities.
Andricka Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Army Test and Evaluation Command, or ATEC, stressed that the cooperative program between the command and Constellation is in the early stages of research and development.
"It's the beginning of something we hope will show us another way to conserve energy, but right now we're learning," she said Tuesday. "We're learning about the energy alternatives and how we can leverage them."
The energy company and the command plan to explore geothermal energy and "other sustainable and secure energy solutions," according to a news release from the command.
"Constellation is working with U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and Aberdeen Test Center to determine the feasibility of a renewable generation source to supply Aberdeen Proving Ground a portion of its electricity demand and exploring ways this power supply can be securely connected to mission critical infrastructure," company spokeswoman Kelly Biemer stated in an email Wednesday.
The Army already has an agreement with Harford County, through which it purchases steam energy created at the county's Waste-to-Energy Facility. The steam energy covers about 50 percent of APG's Edgewood Area "steam needs," according to a county web page on the facility.
That agreement is scheduled to end on March 17, 2016, and the Army does not plan to renew it.
Thomas stated in a follow-up email Wednesday the agreement between the command and Constellation does not affect the waste-to-energy contract, and "this effort is not part of contingency plan due to the contract expiration date approaching in 2016."
"This effort is part of [a] larger Army effort to research and develop secure, resilient energy solutions to increase energy efficiency here and abroad," she wrote.
Constellation, headquartered in Baltimore, is a subsidiary of the Exelon energy company, which also owns the Conowingo Dam in Harford County and is the parent company of Baltimore Gas & Electric, the major supplier of electric power to homes and businesses in Harford County. Constellation and BGE are separate entities under the Exelon umbrella; however, collectively their holdings in Harford make Exelon the county's largest taxpayer.
"We're happy to be part of this unique public/private partnership that will advance the Army's goals for onsite renewable power and for deployable, scalable energy resources to support soldiers in the field," Constellation CEO Joe Nigro stated.
Constellation serves more than 100,000 customers in the business and government sectors, plus more than 1 million residential customers, with electricity, natural gas and renewable resources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal power, according to its website and a company statement.
The customers are in competitive energy markets throughout the U.S., Constellation's Biemer explained.
ATEC oversees Army testing centers throughout the country, including the Aberdeen Test Center at APG, which are designed to provide testing and support services of equipment such as vehicles and generators for government and private entities, according to the news release and the command's web page.
A signing ceremony was held Aug. 4 at the command's headquarters at APG.
"We're looking to develop more efficient practices to alleviate our dependence on costly foreign energy sources and achieve cost savings without degradation to the mission," ATEC commander Maj. Gen. Peter Utley stated. "Our role is constantly changing, and energy is essential in all we do."
Military equipment such as generators, weapons and vehicles are tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and command leaders and staff are also looking for ways to provide sustainable and lightweight energy sources for deployed soldiers, according to the news release.
"This is a national interest to look at ways to conserve energy and leverage existing resources that we have," Thomas explained.
She said energy projects are taking place across the Army, Department of Defense and federal government.
"I think we're going to see a lot of progress across the Army, and definitely here at APG and ATEC, in the area of energy conservation," Thomas said.
The Harford County-owned incinerator, which is on a portion of the Edgewood Area of the proving ground, went into service in the mid-1980s and has handled the bulk of the trash generated in the county since then, burning it to make steam used to heat and cool Army buildings.
The Army and the county had discussed replacing the facility and continuing the relationship. When they could not reach an agreement, however, Harford's government last year negotiated a long-term deal to take waste to a transfer station Baltimore County is building in White Marsh.
Under the agreement between the two counties, Harford is contributing to some of the cost of the White Marsh transfer station and also agreed to deliver recyclable materials to a Baltimore County recycling station in Cockeysville.