America has found an unlikely leader into a sustainable new future, and that’s the U.S. military. From solar power to wind turbines, high efficiency LED lighting and even geothermal installations, the Department of Defense has been pulling out of fossil fuels and getting into clean energy and conservation. The latest foray is being lead by Fort Benning, Georgia, which is about to install two new power stations that will convert the facility’s landfill gas to electricity…come to think of it, perhaps this kind of leadership makes perfect sense, after all.
FlexEnergy and Landfill Gas
Fort Benning will be working with a company called FlexEnergy, which has developed a technology it calls Powerstation. While landfill gas-to-renewables installations are becoming quite common, FlexEnergy’s system has apparently unique capabilities for harvesting even very weak, previously unusable gases. The Powerstation is also a plug-and-play modular system that has the potential for being delivered to far-flung locations at a cost effective price within a relatively short time. As with the military’s development of geothermal energy and other renewables, the idea is to get our defense facilities into a more flexible, off-grid energy independent status (modular, shippable solar arrays for military bases are another example).
ARPA-E and Transformative Energy
The Powerstation is going to be showcased at this week’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy) is the federal agency charged with developing transformative energy projects that will help the U.S. shed itself of fossil fuel harvesting. And not a moment too soon! In the latest fossil fuel disaster to emerge, the devastating and costly consequences of unregulated natural gas drilling are just about to hit the fan (though to be fair, EPA under President Obama has been trying to clean up the mess left behind by the previous administration). That’s on top of a string of recent high profile fossil fuel disasters including the Tennessee coal ash spill, the Massey coal mine disaster, the Gulf oil spill, and of course mountaintop coal mining.
The Department of Defense and Sustainability
The aforementioned list is just the tip of the iceberg — the U.S. has also been racking up millions of acres in Superfund sites and other classified hazardous lands. With all this domestic destruction going on, it’s fair to ask what exactly the U.S. military spending so much time, effort, money, and human sacrifice to defend? The Department of Defense stepped up its environmental stewardship policy as far back as 2002 and its environmental programs have really taken off under the Obama administration, with a commitment to get rid of fossil fuels altogether. It’s high time for the civilian world to get behind the effort – or is that asking a little too much from some of our leading legislators and corporate citizens?
Image: Landfill by D’Arcy Norman on flickr.com.
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+.