The U.S. Army has just flipped the switch on its first wind power project, a single wind turbine at the Tooele Army Depot in Utah. That might sound like small potatoes but it’s a giant step forward for the U.S. military, which has been cautious about wind power primarily due to concerns over radar interference. The installation took more than five years to come to fruition, starting with an approval process in 2005.
Though the military has been reticent about wind power, it has been surging into a clean energy future on other fronts. For the past several years it has been moving rapidly to convert its operations to other forms of renewable energy such as solar and geothermal. That comes along with an aggressive push for energy conservation and biofuels, too, as well reducing the use of toxic chemicals and preserving habitats on Department of Defense lands.
Tooele Army Depot, Wind Power, and Solar Power
Tooele provides a pretty good illustration of the variety of future-oriented energy tactics that the military is pursuing at its many facilities. The single wind power turbine alone is expected to generate 1.5 megawatts annually, saving more than $200,000 in current electricity costs. Tooele is also installing passive solar heating walls on 11 buildings, and these perforated metal sheets are expected to save about $100,000 annually in heating costs. Meanwhile, last year the base won an award for a water conservation program that reduced usage by almost 100 million gallons annually.
Energy Independence for the U.S. Military
With the solar and wind installations, along with other conservation efforts, Tooele is already within shouting distance of 7.5% reliance on renewable energy, a federal goal that kicks in two years from now in 2013. The depot’s energy manager isn’t stopping there. He envisions more turbines, geothermal power, and other measures to make the base completely energy independent and self sustaining. As for drill baby drill, that’s nowhere in the picture.
Image: Wind turbine by Vickie Weyland courtesy of U.S. Army.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.