Net Zero Planner — An Integrated Modeling Tool

Providing analytical and decision support to help the U.S. Army establish Net Zero Energy Installations

Client
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

As the U.S. Army seeks to achieve net zero use of energy, water, and waste at installations around the world, RTI is supporting the effort by applying our Municipal Solid Waste Decision Support Tool (MSW DST). Our experts provided analytical support to the Army Corps of Engineers to help assess the economic and environmental costs and benefits of alternatives for managing solid waste.

Setting the Goal for Army Installations Worldwide

The U.S. Army spends more than $1.3 billion annually on installation energy, uses more than 41 billion gallons of water, generates 2.3 million tons of solid waste, and emits more than 9.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Recognizing the need to curb emissions and resource use, the Army set strategic goals to achieve nine Net Zero Energy Installations by 2020. A Net Zero Energy Installation reduces energy use and maximizes efficiency, energy recovery, and cogeneration opportunities. The remaining energy demand is offset by producing renewable energy. In January 2014, the Army expanded its Net Zero goals by directing all Army installations to implement Net Zero energy, water, and waste to the maximum extent practical and fiscally prudent.

Net Zero Planner Provides Army with Analytical Support

To help installation managers meet this directive, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is developing an integrated, web-based modeling tool called Net Zero Planner. The Net Zero Planner integrates energy, water, and waste planning and engineering in a trade-off and optimization analysis at building and installation levels.

The Army recognizes that energy, water, and waste are interrelated systems. Strategies to pursue net zero energy can lead to increased water use—for example, water is needed for biofuels and waste-to-energy solutions—and processes such as desalination require large amounts of energy.

The situation is highly complex, and the Army needed an integrated modeling tool to support the analysis of this complex problem. Achieving a Net Zero Energy Installation demands the right combination of conservation, resource management, efficiency improvement, and incorporation of renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

To assist this effort, RTI worked with USACE’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) to design and implement the waste module of the Net Zero Planner.

This project draws upon our experience collaborating with the U.S. EPA to develop the MSW DST. Used by more than 100 cities and communities to date, the MSW DST facilitates planning of solid waste–related activities on a municipal scale and can be used to assess the cost, energy use, and environmental emissions and impacts of multiple waste management strategies.

To support the Army’s Net Zero initiative, we performed a pilot study of solid waste management modeling, applying the MSW DST to alternate waste management scenarios for Fort Leonard-Wood in Missouri. Specifically, we analyzed the cost and environmental tradeoffs of scenarios that increase waste diversion and avoid landfill disposal. We used installation-specific data and information to tailor results, and we structured waste management scenarios to answer key questions aimed at maximizing diversion of waste and minimizing cost and carbon emissions.

In addition to the Fort Leonard-Wood pilot study, we worked with CERL to transfer data and information contained in the MSW DST and consulted on the design and programming of optimization modeling frameworks.

The Army’s Path to Net Zero Is Getting Clearer

As a result of our pilot study and support for the Net Zero Planner, the Army has made inroads toward a repeatable process for analyzing the cost, energy, and emissions tradeoffs of solid waste management options that can be taught and exported across Army installations.

Once fully implemented, installation managers and planners will be able to use the Net Zero Planning tool to easily analyze alternatives to their current waste management operations and to execute dynamic planning and analysis as conditions change. As a result, installations worldwide will be better equipped to achieve their Net Zero goals and, ultimately, bolster the Army’s efforts to conserve natural resources and energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, and protect public and environmental health.