If actions speak louder than words, then the United States government is proving how devoted its military is to reducing its carbon footprint, and doing so aggressively.
The Obama Administration has been steadfast in its efforts to restructure the energy output of numerous military energy efficiency initiatives throughout the country. And as the president begins his second term in office this year, his attention to military renewables has not waned. A few new developments include:
• In April, the Texas state government and Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas announced the launch of a 20 megawatt solar farm for the base – deemed the largest single military renewable energy project in history. The solar farm will also serve as the largest partnership between the U.S. Military and a major utility on a renewable energy project, which will power their division headquarters and most of the eastern section of the base. The project is slated to be completed in 2015.
• As the president noted during a speech at Georgetown University on June 25th, the Air Force “is aiming to get half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016. And [he is] directing the Navy and the Department of Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to create advanced biofuels.” The move is in correlation with the President’s trip to Buckley Air Force Base near Denver in January 2012, where pilots successfully tested jets that ran solely on advanced biofuels. Buckley AFB is also home to a one-megawatt solar array.
• Last month, the US Department of Defense (DOD) allocated $4.3 million toward a series of energy efficiency initiatives. Aerodynamically reducing drag on military aircraft, preventing insect and ice buildup on the wings of planes, developing open microgrid setups to quicken their adoption to the main grid if needed, and reducing the quantity and weight of batteries used by troops all will be addressed with the funding.
• Transmission-Integral Generators (TIGs) are being implemented in a wide variety of military vehicles (non-combat and combat vehicles alike) to provide their own battery power. With a TIG in place, a vehicle can take the place of common car batteries through its own electricity output, which is even more efficient than current electric vehicles that rely on plugging into an electrical source to recharge. As stated in Forbes, some TIGs are capable of producing as much as 125 kW from an engine drive shaft to support the ever-increasing quantity of electronics filling up many military vehicles today. This type of vehicle may redefine exactly what an ‘electric vehicle’ is someday.
• On September 9, 2013, the US Navy agreed to triple the budget of clean energy initiatives in Hawaii, where fossil fuel energy prices already were four times higher than the national average. A highly successful funding agency for renewable energy projects in Hawaii called the “Energy Excelerator” will now have $30 million to work with, rather than the $10 million originally granted. Accomplishments from the Energy Excelerator for Hawaii include several solar farms, a collaborative effort with General Motors on a renewable fuel cell vehicle fleet, a full scale rainwater harvesting system, a fully-functioning microgrid system at joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and a grid-connected wave power system.
• The second and third waves of funding from a four-step, $7 billion military project were announced in late August and early September of 2013 through Multiple Award Task Order Contracts, or MATOC’s. Twenty-two solar (the second wave) contracts, and seventeen wind energy (the third wave) contracts were awarded across the country for DOD installations.
In total, the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force each intend to install 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy capacity through 2025, which would result in one-quarter of all energy used by the Armed Forces coming through a renewable energy source.
Creating a Clean Energy Market
These projects offer many positives for American citizens, especially when it comes to reducing the military’s carbon footprint. Estimates report that in 2012 the U.S. Military spent over $20 billion, used over 800 quadrillion Joules worth of energy, and emitted over 70 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. To put that in perspective, the U.S. Armed Forces consumes as much energy and emits as much carbon dioxide as the entire African nation of Nigeria annually.
In a speech last year, President Obama spoke about the importance of focusing on renewables with the U.S. Military, “ … Now, it’s important for the military to do its part because … our military is the largest energy consumer in the world … ”. He added, “… So we can set a good example, and help create an additional market for clean energy …”
In terms of creating an additional market with clean energy for the private sector, Americans don’t need to look very far to witness the effects of the recent influx of renewables. During his first term alone, Obama’s policies “ … more than doubled generation of electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal sources,” and “ … since 2009, the Department of Interior has approved 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms, and 11 geothermal plants, which will provide enough electricity to power 4.4 million homes.”
In comparison, when former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took that position in 2009, not a single utility-scale solar power project was fully approved for construction on public lands.
Whether directly through jobs created by military renewable energy contracts, or indirectly through the installation or maintenance opportunities that come from solar farms, wind turbines, and other renewable installations, the relationship between U.S. military energy consciousness and the American private sector is naturally linked. As long as the U.S. Military has the budget to fund projects like these, renewable energy endeavors appear to offer long-term and sustainable energy solutions. This addresses a massive area of concern for the Armed Forces.
Photo Credit: Military Energy Efficiency/shutterstock