A couple of weeks ago the U.S. Army announced that it was on the verge of identifying a group of bases to adopt a net zero policy for energy, water and waste, and now we can all stop holding our breaths. The U.S. Army’s net zero bases were just announced and the program is even more ambitious than it first appeared. Net zero energy, water, and waste are assigned to six bases each, and two bases have volunteered to go net zero in all three categories. For those of you keeping score at home, that doesn’t actually add up to twenty, because some bases are going net zero in two categories. In any case, the point is to position the U.S. Army as a showcase, leader and learning center for sustainability, not only for the rest of the military but for the civilian world as well.
Implications for Future Nuclear Growth
The Net Zero program could help spell the beginning of the end for the growth of nuclear energy in the U.S.. The vulnerability of grid-connected military facilities is a growing issue regardless of the power source, and nuclear energy is a risk multiplier. The Net Zero program has been in the works for a good two years, anticipating the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, in which power loss has emerged as a manageable concern compared to food and water contamination and mass evacuations. That all adds up to a widespread civilian catastrophe on top of any operational effects on bases, adding a whopping big pile of “known unknowns” to any military response. Fukushima has already given the U.S. nuclear industry a case of the jitters, and the speed with which the Army’s net zero for energy programs achieve success will demonstrate that current technology allows for workable alternatives.
The Potential for Net Zero Energy
The Army defines net zero energy as the ability to produce as much energy on site as a facility uses, on an annual basis. System-wide, the Department of Defense has the potential to achieve net zero energy through its geothermal resources alone, but there are unique challenges at individual facilities. The six bases selected for net zero energy represent different climates and different resource potentials, from West Point NY to the Marshall Islands, with California and Maryland in between. Under a separate program, all of the Oregon Army National Guard installations will participate in net zero energy on a statewide basis.
Net Zero Energy, Water, and Waste
The Army plots net zero water as the return of freshwater resources to the same watershed over the course of a year, with quality restoration a priority. Net zero waste means no landfilling; all waste is converted to “resource value.” It sounds simple enough in terms of domestic water use and waste disposal, but an Army base can share many characteristics with commercial and industrial operations. In addition to the six bases signed up for each of these two categories, Fort Bliss TX and Fort Carson CO have stepped up to go net zero in energy, water, and waste.
Tip of the Net Zero Iceberg
In about two years the Army will do another round of nominations and add more bases to the net zero program. In the meantime, there are about 40 installations that nominated themselves for the current program but didn’t make the cut. These are being encouraged to continue their efforts, so there promises to be a lot of activity in the next two years.
For the Record…
The Net Zero Energy bases are Fort Detrick, MD; Fort Hunter Liggett, CA; kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands; Parks Reserve Forces Training Area, CA; Sierra Army Depot, CA; West Point, NY; Oregon Army National Guard, OR. The Net Zero Water bases are Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD; Camp Rilea, OR; Forth Buchanan, PR; Fort Riley, KS; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA; Tobyhanna Army Depot, PA. The Net Zero Waste bases are Fort Detrick, MD; Fort Hood, TX; Fort Hunter Liggett, CA; Fort Polk, LA; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA; U.S. Army Garrison, Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Image: West Point courtesy of U.S. Army on flickr.com.
- U.S. Army Has Net Zero Vision for National Security (cleantechnica.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+.