The objective of this project is to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the use of diesel-electric locomotives as a backup electric generation solution for Department of Defense (DoD) facilities. The study will determine how diesel-electric locomotives can be implemented from both economic and operational perspectives. Although previous demonstrations have successfully demonstrated the viability of locomotive/grid generation, control strategies to ensure grid stability and load matching have not. Therefore, in addition to the economic and operational considerations, various control strategies will also be investigated. The effort will engage with stakeholders to determine what agreements and logistics need to occur between agencies. Initial stakeholders include DoD sites, Army Materiel Command (AMC) who is responsible for Army Rail Equipment and Federal agencies including Amtrak who could provide locomotives in the event of an emergency.

Technology Description

The U.S. Army owns eighty-seven diesel-electric locomotives with generators (123 megawatts [MW] total) that are ideally suited to meet emergency energy resilience demands. In emergency situations, these locomotives could be driven to the site, and with just a few components, they could be connected directly to the grid to provide backup power. Additionally, locomotives have the capability to haul their fuel with them through utilization of railroad tank cars. Such a rail-to-grid solution is innovative due to system mobility and co-utilization of existing assets owned by the U.S. Army to provide substantial amounts of backup power to meet the Army’s 14-day resilient power directive (Army Directive 2017-07).


The primary performance benefit derived from using diesel-electric locomotives for emergency backup generation comes from the ability of these locomotives to generate large amounts of power (1.3 – 2.2 MW depending on the model) with the ability to bring large amounts of fuel with them in attached tank cars. A single 25,000 gallon tank car would allow a locomotive to operate for 14-days at 820 kW.