PM MEP pioneers efficient power systems

Without power, warfighters' technological advances would be short-circuited
By Claire Heininger

With a clear need to cut fossil fuel consumption on the battlefield, Project Manager, Mobile Electric Power (PM MEP) has steadily modernized its generator fleet while exploring alternative energy sources and innovative future power generation systems.

In the field, power is the lifeblood of communications gear, weapons systems, tactical operations centers and much more. With enemies frequently targeting the supply convoys that carry fuel to troops, reducing fuel consumption can be a matter of life and death.

“During peacetime, generators are the lowest consumer of fuel because no one has to take their power with them – they’re operating out of installations with power from the local utility grid,” said Paul Richard, acting project manager for MEP. “But going into war – especially Afghanistan, which has very little infrastructure as compared to Iraq – units have to take their power with them.”

Soon, the generators currently in theater will be replaced by Advanced Medium Mobile Power Sources (AMMPS).  Ranging in size from five kilowatts (kW) through 60 kW, the AMMPS are part of the next generation of Defense Department standard mobile electric power sources. The full rate production decision for the AMMPS program is scheduled for May 2011, with fielding expected to begin possibly later Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 or early in FY 2012. 

When fully fielded, the fleet is expected to save the Army more than 50 million gallons of fuel a year. AMMPS will also be 50 percent more reliable than its predecessor, and greatly improve maintainability while lowering total ownership cost over the full spectrum of tactical operations. 

“On average, they’re 21 percent more fuel efficient and cost only 82 percent of the unit cost of the Tactical Quiet Generators they’re going to replace,” said Michael Padden, former project manager for MEP.

PM MEP is also working on the Large Advanced Mobile Power Sources (LAMPS) program, which will replace the current Tactical Quiet Generators in the 100 kW and 200 kW sizes. Improvements are expected in fuel consumption, size and weight, reliability and maintainability.  

Beyond creating better power sources, PM MEP is also developing methods to use them more efficiently through the use of power distribution equipment to create “power islands” that service several different loads.  This work has greatly reduced the logistical footprint of power on the battlefield, and has helped lay the groundwork for development of deployable microgrids, which would link together power sources and  intelligently manage the supply by autonomously switching generators on and off, according to demand.

To capitalize on alternative energy sources, PM MEP is developing hybrid systems that use solar and wind power to offset traditional fuel consumption. Some smaller power sources can run entirely off the solar capability “with minimal or no generator power required,” Richard said.

Research is also ongoing to evaluate the prospects of a larger hybrid system that could power a Brigade level Command Post, as well as fuel cell technology and other initiatives.

In addition to tactical electric power, PM MEP is making strides in environmental control. Improved Environmental Control Units (IECU) provide cooling, heating and dehumidification to Soldiers and materiel systems so they can function in harsh environments. 

A Full Rate Production Ceremony for the 60 K British Thermal Units per Hour (BTUH) IECU was held in February 2011 and fielding began in March. The Army expects about 1,400 60 K IECUs will be in operation by the end of the year.

The 60 K IECU fleet offers a 16 percent fuel savings over comparable military-standard units, representing an annual savings of more than one million gallons of fuel over the entire fleet, said Cory Goetz, who served as the lead engineer on the 60 K program and is now Product Director, Batteries. 

“The 60 K IECU, in addition to being a more efficient consumer of battlefield power, is going to be installed, operated and maintained by Soldiers using the tools and training that they receive in Army schoolhouses,” said Lt. Col. Ed Taylor, United States Marine Corps, Small Power Sources Product Manager for PM MEP. “It’s going to be a significant improvement over the status quo.”

About the Author

Claire Heininger, Symbolic Systems Inc., is a contractor supporting the Army’s Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T). This special report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at [email protected]