Technology Transfer of an Installation Planning Tool for Energy, Water, and Waste
Peter Ellis | Big Ladder Software LLC
In 2011, the Engineer Research and Development Center, began developing a computational framework called the Net Zero Planner (NZP) Tool to automate a significant portion of the modeling and analysis required for energy master planning at Department of Defense (DoD) installations. The NZP Tool aims to greatly reduce the cost and time requirements for master planning and enables a robust engineering analysis at the community scale for an entire installation. The NZP Tool has now been applied at over 40 military installations. While the NZP Tool represents a major step forward in reducing the cost and time needed for an integrated approach to modeling at the community scale, there are barriers that severely limit technology transfer of the tool within DoD and beyond the military. The tool requires extensive training and subject matter expertise to effectively use it. The user interface design is not conducive to new users. The NZP Tool is also no longer compatible with most major web browsers due to a deprecated Graphical User Interface (GUI) framework. These issues are a significant obstacle to adoption. The overall objective of this project is to resolve the technical drawbacks of the existing NZP Tool and facilitate the technology transfer, adoption, and deployment of this innovative technology to new DoD users and government contractors. Target users are energy managers, resource managers, master planners, and other practitioners that are involved with planning at DoD installations.
The specific technologies for the project include both new software improvements and new services for users. On the software side, the existing technology stack for the NZP Tool will be upgraded to completely replace the deprecated GUI framework with a leading open-source solution. The change in GUI framework will require the user interface to be completely rebuilt. The change will provide a natural opportunity for a comprehensive redesign and rethinking of the user interface and user experience. Together the new GUI framework and new user interface will address the main technical barriers for broader adoption and deployment. Along with software improvements, the project also includes new services to facilitate technology transfer. Services include the development of commercial-grade training and user support services.
The direct benefit to DoD of the project is a better NZP Tool that—along with associated training and support services—improves the prospects for technology transfer and readiness for broader adoption and deployment. By extension, improving the technology transfer of the NZP Tool to practitioners—both inside and outside of DoD—also acts as a multiplier for all of the benefits of the NZP Tool. The NZP Tool can help reduce the cost and time needed to perform integrated master planning studies for energy, water, and waste. Demonstration results under previous work suggest that the use of the NZP Tool dramatically reduces the cost (by more than 50%) of developing an energy master plan for an installation. Less expensive master planning can lead to more frequent and more rigorous planning—both of which can help improve environmental sustainability, resource efficiency, and operational resilience at installations. If broadly adopted and deployed, the NZP Tool has the potential for wide-scale impact. The NZP Tool has already been applied at numerous installations and is likely applicable at the vast majority of DoD installations. The NZP Tool can also facilitate compliance with Federal energy requirements such as the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the 2005 Energy Policy Act.