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US Military Goes Green

The approaching “fiscal cliff,” possibly taking effect in 2013, is spurring valid fears that tax credits for renewable energy projects will be eliminated.  Elimination of these credits would stunt new project development for the foreseeable future.  Yet there’s still an established level of promise, optimism (and month) for a substantial portion of the sector.

From where, you might ask?

From Uncle Sam himself that is, or at least, from his enormous military bases.

Originally signed in October 2009 by President Obama, an executive order titled the ‘Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance’ was set into motion.  Kicking renewable energy efforts into high gear, the order requires that federal agencies reduce their energy footprint by 30 percent in the immediate future by various means.

The Department of Defense (DoD) implemented the executive order for a variety of reasons.  In addition to the over $4 billion spent on energy services by the military annually, the LA Times reported in 2008 that the military burns 4 billion gallons of jet fuel, 220 million gallons of diesel and 73 million gallons of gasoline every year.  Those are numbers that would even make T. Boone Pickens blush.

Despite the environmental and economic impact, there is a definite national security issue to consider as well.  With the ongoing worries of foreign oil reliance and the constant threat of terrorist action, it would be in the military’s best interests to take preventative measures for energy sustainability on their own bases before having to rely on the grid itself to sustain all operations.

Admiral John Nathman, USN, (Ret.) former Commander of the US Fleet Forces Command under George W. Bush, sums it up very well,

“There are serious risks to doing nothing about climate change.  We can pay now or we’re going to pay a whole lot later.  The US has a unique opportunity to become energy independent, protect our national security and boost our economy while reducing our carbon footprint.  We’ve been a model of success for the rest of the world in the past and now we must lead the way.”

The progress made since 2009 on various military bases has been staggering to say the least.  A sampling of hundreds of approved military initiatives is below.  Much of the development can be attributed to the creation of the Energy Initiatives Task Force in 2011, which is designed to source 25 percent of energy from renewables to the US military by 2025.

  • A 2.2 megawatt solar project was completed in Sept ’12 at the US Army Garrison Kaiserslautern base in Germany
  • The Navy created the ‘Great Green Fleet’ – an aircraft carrier strike group that runs entirely on biofuels
  • A 10 megawatt ocean thermal energy (OTEC) plant that is slated to open in 2013 was created for Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, in addition to a $15 million solar project there
  • Expansions of the 14 megawatt solar cell lot next to Nellis Air Force Base have been applied in 2012
  • Cape Cod Air Force Base (AFB) received two new wind turbines in the summer of 2012, cutting their energy costs in half
  • An $80 million efficiency project, slated to be the largest domestic energy retrofit in the Air Force’s history, is planned to be completed at Tinker AFB by 2015

To DoD also announced plans in August 2012 intending to utilize an additional 16 million acres of public land (historically restricted for military use) for renewable energy projects, mostly in the western US.  In addition, they also opened bids to purchase up to an additional $7 billion in renewable energy for bases that don’t already generate their own power.

We will all have to wait and see how the renewable energy tax credits work out for the industry itself, but there’s no denying that energy sustainability is alive and well due, in part, to the US military.  ECS is proud to work with a few military bases for demand response, and we have been well aware of their green initiatives for some time.  We look forward to see what the future will bring for the parties involved.

Kristopher Settle
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Kris can be found on Twitter and Google+.

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