By April Dudash
A potential $7 billion, 30-year opportunity to supply electricity to the military could mean big business for North Carolina, according to the N.C. Military Business Center.
The U.S. military must generate 25percent of its energy from renewable sources - solar, biomass, wind and geothermal - by 2025. The Army alone will need to generate 2.5million megawatt hours of power annually to meet the goal and continue to power its 155 installations and 200 utilities. Secretary of the Army John McHugh launched the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force last year to oversee the transformation.
"I'd like North Carolina companies to stand up and lead that march," said Diana Potts, an adviser to the task force and owner of Government and Environmental Advisor in Fayetteville. "DoD says, 'We are hands off. We want you to come in, we want you to build it, we want you to be responsible for it, you you you,'" she said.
For now, companies are in a waiting game until the Army, teamed with the Army Corps of Engineers, releases a request for proposals sometime later this year. The multiaward contracts, or MATOCs, are expected to be doled out in early 2013.
The N.C. Military Business Center wants companies, particularly small ones, to be ready.
Already, 24 large renewable energy projects have been pinpointed across the country, including one on Fort Bragg. North Carolina companies that don't land work locally will need to travel. They also need to prepare for the way contracts will be awarded. If awarded a project, businesses are guaranteed work for only three years with seven, renewable one-year options.
"Eighteen months from now, three years from now, the technology is going to change immensely," said Scott Dorney, executive director of the N.C. Military Business Center. "They're going to open this up again, open it up to new companies who have up-to-date technologies."
Stephen Piccot with Concentric Renewable Energy in Durham said he's forming a group of small renewable energy companies to bid on the project.
"We're going to come up with a solution that's going to involve more than one technology," Piccot said.
He added that his "holistic" method would spread smaller renewable energy technologies across an installation.
The business center encourages teaming, whether it be through subcontracting with a larger company or joining a joint venture, but it's also quick to point out that even if small businesses aren't awarded work through the MATOC, smaller projects will be available at military installations.
Pat Grogan's company, Joyce Engineering in Greensboro, won its first federal contract at Camp Lejeune last summer. Now, it monitors landfill gas on the Marine Corps installation.
"Now we're starting to look at more projects," Grogan said. "When you look at this proposal that's 100 pages, it's very daunting."
He said his team doesn't have the staff to easily monitor and dissect huge projects.
But Grogan hopes to team with a larger company to lessen the risks.
"That's more attractive because there's so many unknowns here."