The US Army Corps of Engineers has just announced that it has awarded contracts to 17 private companies to build wind turbines on Department of Defense facilities around the country. It’s the third in a series of four groups of renewable energy contracts for DoD that will eventually total $7 billion. Given the military’s avid pursuit of a more diversified fuel mix, it looks like certain members of Congress better get off the “drill, baby, drill” train once and for all if they really do support our troops.
The first two groups of contracts were geothermal and solar, and the last will be biomass. We’re especially interested in the military’s sudden interest in wind power, though, because not too long ago there were concerns about wind turbines interfering with radar systems. So, what changed?
Seventeen Wind Power Contracts For The US Military
The $7 billion DoD renewable energy initiative is basically the same kind of power purchase agreement (PPA) that is commonplace in today’s solar power market.
We taxpayers pay no money up front for the renewable energy facilities, which are constructed by private sector companies. We simply provide the real estate in the form of D0D properties, and agree to purchase power from the facilities. As with other PPA’s the idea is to save money by getting renewable energy at a lower price than the grid mix.
For the military, the additional benefit is smoothing out fossil fuel price spikes that can wreak havoc with budgets for training and other essential operations.
The seventeen contracts in the wind power round went to Acciona Energy North America Corporation, Cobra Industrial Services, Inc., Dominion Energy, Inc., Duke Energy, EDF Renewable Energy, Emerald Infrastructure, Enel Green Power North America, EverPower Wind Holdings, First Wind, Iberdrola Renewables, LTC Federal, NorthlandPower, Siemens Government Technologies, Stronghold Engineering, Turn Key Power Consortium, VERT Investment Group, and West Texas Power Company.
Among the familiar names in this group with a global reach, Siemens is well known for its wind turbine technology and it is also included in the geothermal group, and Italy-based Enel has had a strong presence in the US wind and solar markets as well as a long history in geothermal energy.
US Military Makes Peace With Wind Power
As for the military’s wary relationship with wind power, that began to change in the past several years with a growing body of knowledge on the interaction of wind farms with radar. The US company Aveillant, for example, has come up with a new 3-D holographic form of radar that can “declutter” readings from turbine blades and distinguish them from aircraft.
In 2010, the Army went online with its first wind power project, at the Tooele Army Depot in Utah, and the Coast Guard followed suit with a wind turbine at its Southwest Harbor Base in Maine. In 2012, Cape Cod Air Force Station in Massachusetts announced that its 6th Space Warning Squadron on Cape Cod would get a new pair of wind turbines, which will save the facility an estimated $1 million annually in energy costs.
Also worth mentioning is the involvement of military veterans in lobbying for the wind power industry, both for its role in in a stronger national defense and for its role as a valuable employment platform for veterans.