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A Solar Powered Army of Energy Managers

 
A dustup over the U.S. Navy’s biofuel program hogged the media spotlight this spring, but under the radar, the Army has been pursuing an ambitious alternative energy program of its own. Aside from $7 billion in cutting-edge and utility-scale projects, the Army’s initiatives include a modest but critical experiment in energy conservation at base camps.

army uses solar power at base camps

Smart and Green Energy for Base Camps

The Army had been slowly but steadily introducing portable solar power and other new energy equipment at forward operating bases on a piecemeal basis. The new initiative, called SAGE for Smart and Green Energy at Base Camps, steps it up a notch with an integrated, camp-wide approach that relies on a heavy dose of user engagement.

SAGE got under way last summer at the Base Camp Integration Laboratory at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. The 150-person camp consists of a 10-acre compound that includes energy efficient shelters and other buildings, waste reduction systems, solar power for hot water, graywater recycling, and a power management system that includes a microgrid and energy storage.
 


 
Affordability and portability also factored into equipping the camp. The whole thing relies on off-the-shelf technologies that can be shipped in a single C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and set up in four hours.

The goal of the SAGE experiment is to test whether energy savings of up to 60 percent are possible at camps of up to 3,000 soldiers.

An Army of Energy Managers

Alternative energy and conservation are literally life and death issues for the Army, as described in a recent issue of Stand To!, the Army’s online leadership newsletter. The whole page is worth a read but here are a few key paragraphs (breaks added for readability):

“The Army is making Power and Energy an accountable consideration in everything we do, making every Soldier, civilian and family member an Energy Manager…

“Supplying power and energy to our Army around the world is an increasingly challenging, expensive and dangerous undertaking. The Army must include energy security as a prime consideration in all activities to reduce demand, increase efficiency, obtain alternative sources of energy and create a culture of energy…

“Innovative and adaptive leaders, seeking ways to increase energy efficiency and implement renewable and alternate sources of energy, are key to saving lives and increasing the Army’s flexibility by reducing costs.”

The need to transition to a “culture of energy” is something that environmental organizations have been hammering away at for,… well, forever, so the Army’s full-on engagement in this issue will go a long way toward mainstreaming more responsible stewardship of the Earth’s resources.

It would also help if the party of “support our troops” was on board with the program, too, but considering the cold shoulder Republican leaders in Congress gave to the Navy’s biofuel initiatives, don’t count on it.

Image: Portable solar canopy. Some rights reserved by US Army Africa.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

 
 
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Written By

Tina 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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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