DEVENS — All might be quiet out in Devens — aside from the general rumble of nearby military drills — but the fort is gearing up for a number of potential projects that make it unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
Going through a number of the fort’s current projects, Fort Devens Commander Lt. Col. Steven Egan assured listeners at a Fort Devens Museum talk that “Devens is here to stay.”
Current projects include a 600-meter known distance range likely finished in September, and classroom upgrades to improve the exterior walls.
Egan said the fort has also been pushing energy projects and initiatives, modernizing 75 percent of the building inventory to reduce energy usage.
These include insulated windows, LED lights and energy-efficient boilers in eight buildings.
Although decommissioned in 1996, Fort Devens serves as a training facility not only for the armed forces, but the FBI, state and local police, and others.
Last year, the fort’s facility usage increased to the highest number since 2010, Egan said. Training — mainly done on the 4,800-acre South Post parcel — is the fort’s focus.
“On busy drill weekends, we’ll have a couple thousand people on the base, some more out at the range, we’ll have our barracks completely filled,” he said.
A live fire shoot house, opened in 2012, allows soldiers to train in a number of indoor situations. One course trains soldiers in an urban setting, featuring 10 buildings with a “Third World facade,” Egan said.
Unlike in the past, Egan said, soldiers are now fighting in towns — a world of difference from fighting in a forest.
“Buildings are difficult,” he said. “They’re dangerous, difficult and it’s harder to do.”
Meanwhile at the fort’s main post, some buildings are not in use and may be taken down.
Egan said that one study showed the main post had a significant amount of excess capacity.
“We just don’t have every building full and there’s some we just don’t need,” he said. “Some are older and we’re spending a lot of money to maintain buildings when we don’t have a lot of money to do it.”
Right now, he explained, there is a proposal to consolidate the unused space. Another analysis will determine the square footage the fort actually needs.
Other potential projects — including geothermal and solar power at the fort — could receive state funding from the new military-bond bill that Gov. Deval Patrick signed in March.
Egan said he likes to think of the fort as part of the community, not just of Devens but also Ayer, Shirley, Lancaster and Harvard.
“The support I see here at Devens from the surrounding community is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else,” he said.
Despite all the activity at the fort, Egan does not anticipate regular military coming back to Devens — based on reductions in size, he said, the army is looking to close more bases.
“I don’t foresee them opening a base up here,” he said of Fort Devens. “But I foresee them keeping what’s here because of what it provides to the units in New England.”