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Uncategorized military renewable energy

Published on January 24th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

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2.1 Gigawatts Of Renewable Energy For US Military, On Track For 3



If you want to check out the amazing transition of the US armed services from fossil fuel dependency to renewable, locally sourced energy, you can find it all wrapped up in a neat little package called Power Surge, a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts and partner Navigant. The raw numbers are impressive, with more than 2,000 new energy conservation and renewable energy projects currently installed at military facilities.

What’s even more impressive is the rapid pace of the military renewable energy transition, despite a concerted effort by certain members of Congress to hobble renewable energy development in the US.

military renewable energy

Solar project at Fort Hunter Liggett (cropped) courtesy of USACE HQ.

Military Renewable Energy Surging Up

According to Pew’s Power Surge, the number of energy conservation projects at US military installations more than doubled recently, from 630 in 2010 to 1,339 in 2012 (fiscal years, btw). In that period renewable energy projects went up from 454 to 700.

Power Surge also estimates that there were 384 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity at Department of Defense facilities by mid-2013. That number is set to shoot up to 2.1 gigawatts within five years, by 2018.

All this activity puts the Department of Defense on track to meet its goal of installing three gigawatts of renewable energy at its facilities by 2025.

More Fight – Less Fuel

Okay, so it’s all nice that the Department of Defense wants more renewable energy, but saving the planet is not the driving force behind the push for fossil fuel independency.

DoD has been quite vocal about the urgency of transitioning the US off petroleum (as we’ve covered here and here for example) and adopting more lean, flexible energy sources for combat (here and here for example).

Perhaps lesser known is the imperative to improve the security of domestic and overseas military facilities by enabling them to source renewable energy on site or hyper-locally, and unplug from the grid, which here in the US is still heavily dependent on coal and natural gas.


Here is how Pew sums it up in Power Surge:

… To meet essential power requirements, defense leaders have initiated far-reaching steps to harness advanced technologies capable of conserving energy, enabling on-site production from renewable sources, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

That effort began in earnest in 2008, when the department convened a prestigious task force, formed by the Defense Science Board, to explore the key energy challenges facing the military in the 21st century. The panel’s report, “More Fight–Less Fuel,” called on the U.S. military to address two major challenges: the significant and growing demand for fuel in combat operations, and the vulnerability associated with almost complete reliance by military installations on the nation’s aging and vulnerable commercial power grid.

Check out that last phrase in particular because it nails down something that’s been bothering us for a while.

Along with the aforementioned obstruction of renewable energy development by certain members of Congress (here and here for example), you also have many of those same legislators pushing for privatization and refusing to fund important infrastructure projects.

So there you have the perfect storm: for all the billions spent on national defense, it all hangs on the fragile platform of an “aging and vulnerable” private energy infrastructure.

Ironically, it’s that same privatization/ant-infrastructure push that has forced DoD to push back with an agile end-run around Republican (there, we said it) attempts to block renewable energy development.

Let’s also note for the record that DoD has a huge hand in funding renewable energy/energy conservation R&D projects that apply to the civilian sector as well as national defense, with the Energy Department’s newly announced $50 million push for next-generation vehicles just the tip of the iceberg.

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The U.S. Department of Defense defines installation energy security as the ability to assure access to reliable sources of energy and deliver that power to meet operational needs on its bases in the United States and abroad. The U.S. military needs safe, secure, reliable, and affordable energy to operate facilities on an uninterrupted basis. To meet essential power requirements, defense leaders have initiated far-reaching steps to harness advanced technologies capable of conserving energy, enabling on-site production from renewable sources, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Related Assets:

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Download report PDF

That effort began in earnest in 2008, when the department convened a prestigious task force, formed by the Defense Science Board, to explore the key energy challenges facing the military in the 21st century. The panel’s report, “More Fight–Less Fuel,” called on the U.S. military to address two major challenges: the significant and growing demand for fuel in combat operations, and the vulnerability associated with almost complete reliance by military installations on the nation’s aging and vulnerable commercial power grid.1

- See more at: http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/reports/power-surge-energy-security-and-the-department-of-defense-85899532987#sthash.ybam9ccF.dpuf

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About the Author

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+.



  • jon abel

    Here’s a way to increase renewable energy. This is patent #512,340. It works just fine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHxK1VWrXcM

  • sacdad

    This is not a matter of “good Party bad Party”, except to a rabbid partisan. This is a complex economic issue. Coal and gas supplies in the US are not insecure. Arguably the grid is vulnerable to terrorist attack but is rapidly repairable, which is undoubtedly why it has not been targeted. Terrorists go for mass casualties, not power lines. Solar power remains more expensive than electricity generated by coal, gas, oil, hydroelectric or nuclear. There may be a payout decades down the road if installation misisons remain unchanged. Eventually capital costs will be recovered by O&M savings. More likely we will face another round of base closures. It remains to be seen if this is a wise use of public funds or yet another government boondoggle. Solar power is efficient in orbit, highly inefficient on the earth’s surface due to attenuation in the atmosphere. The average solar energy on earth is 164 watt per square meter per day. To get 3 GWh, the military must give up the use of 4 x 10**8 square meters of land. That is an incredible sacrifice of maneuver space. Is it worth it? Time will tell. But there is a legitimate case to be made that this might not ultimately prove to be a wise use of taxpayer money. We must be respectful of other points of view.

    • A Real Libertarian

      “Solar power remains more expensive than electricity generated by coal, gas, oil, hydroelectric or nuclear.”

      Nope, utility scale is under $0.10/KWh, cheaper then coal, nukes or oil.

      “There may be a payout decades down the road if installation misisons remain unchanged.”

      Payout is in a couple years, if it’s a base in a war zone, months at the most. ($300 a gallon gas does that).

      “It remains to be seen if this is a wise use of public funds or yet another government boondoggle.”

      Wise use of public funds.

      “Solar power is efficient in orbit”

      Not cost wise.

      “The average solar energy on earth is 164 watt per square meter per day”

      Watt-hours?

      “To get 3 GWh, the military must give up the use of 4 x 10**8 square meters of land.”

      1. 3 GW of capacity, not 3 GWh of production.

      2. Not all solar, wind, geothermal, biomass all included.

      3. 3,000,000,000/164 = ~18,300,000 m2 or 18.3 km2, how much space does 6 GW of coal capacity take up? Now how much space does the fallout of pollution from the coal take up?

      “We must be respectful of other points of view.”

      Grow up. The flat earth society doesn’t deserve respect.

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