The U.S. Army has opened a System Integration Laboratory (SIL) at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, modeled after forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to test technologies aimed at creating more energy-efficient base camps. The various energy-efficient technologies being tested are expected to reduce base camp fuel requirements by 20 percent or more and water demand by up to 75 percent.

The 10-acre SIL will be broken into two side-by-side sections, each occupied by 150 active-component and reserve component soldiers for periods of a few weeks or months at a time. One section acting as a control group will shadow standard expeditionary bases, while the second will act as a test group, carrying out almost identical operations as the first, but while integrating new technologies to allow for the collection of real-time data.

Technologies being examined include energy-efficient shelters and water-filtration and reuse systems, while planning is also underway to look at alternative energy sources including wind and solar power. As data is collected, information from the components and systems of each group will be compared to measure the effectiveness of the various technologies.

Officials say that once the effectiveness of the technologies is proven, the SIL will share them with currently deployed and future expeditionary forces so they can be implemented.

"The Army is focused on five goals," says Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, "reducing energy consumption, increasing energy efficiency across platforms and facilities, increasing our use of renewable and alternative energy; assuring access to sufficient energy supplies today and in the future, and reducing adverse impacts on the environment. The SIL will give us the data we need to deploy solutions in a cost-effective manner."

While parts of the project have been running since the SIL opened on June 24, 2011, it isn't expected to be fully operational until August 1, 2011.

"We're seeing promising results from the micro-grid already," said Lt. Col. Daryl Harger, product manager, Force Sustainment Systems. "We're excited about the technology, but we also want to take a structured approach and make sure the results we get are valuable and true."