In the latest stage of the historic battle between renewable energy and fossil fuels, the U.S. Army has taken the gloves off: Army Secretary John McHugh announced the launch of the Army’s new Energy Initiatives Office Task Force at the GovEnergy Conference in Ohio last week. The new task force is charged with developing large-scale renewable energy projects for Army bases and other facilities. Though the task force is focused on military needs – in this case, the ability of bases to keep functioning despite widespread fuel supply and power disruptions – this could mark the beginning of the end for those who fight on the side of continued reliance on fossil fuel in the civilian world, too.
The Energy Initiatives Task Force
The Task Force is the platform by which the Army aims to achieve its goal of using 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Rather than focusing on small installations, the program is going big, with a focus on utility-scale and near-utility scale projects of around ten megawatts.
Funding for Military Energy
Given the ambitious scope of the Task Force and the urgency of reducing the military’s dependence on fossil fuels and far-flung power plants, one would think that vast public resources would be mustered to support our troops in the fight for renewable energy cause, but one would be wrong. Today’s majority party in the House of Representatives seems to have forgotten its deep and abiding interest in military readiness and is sharply focused on cutting spending, particularly when it comes to environmental initiatives. With that in mind, the Task Force will be looking to the private sector for investment.
Power Purchase Agreements on a Grand Renewable Scale
The arrangement that McHugh envisions is basically a power purchase agreement, in which private investors would build renewable energy installations on or near military facilities and the Army would purchase the power. The Army estimates that a $7.1 billion private sector investment over ten years would yield projects that could churn out about 2,100 gigawatt hours of power annually.
Renewable Energy, from Military to Civilian
Solar energy is the first resource that comes to mind in terms of on-site renewable energy for military bases, but wind power, geothermal and even landfill gas are among the other options. In fact, the Department of Defense has estimated that there is enough geothermal potential alone at DoD facilities to make the the military a supplier of energy to the civilian grid, not just a consumer. Another initiative that could have a significant impact on civilian life is the new Army Net Zero program, in which selected bases are attempting to achieve net zero status in energy consumption, water supply or waste disposal, or a combination of all three.
Image: U.S. Army 1998 Photographer of the Year Winner courtesy of expertinfantry.com via 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+.