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Department of Defense Goes Big On Wind, Solar, And Biomass

We’ve been following a massive $7 billion renewable energy buy that the Department of Defense kicked off a while back, and the program is really picking up steam. In the latest round of developments, yesterday the US Army Corps of Engineers paired up with the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force to announce contracts with 20 more companies.

If that Army task force (EITF) rings a bell, we just noted yesterday that EITF swung a deal for Fort Drum in New York to get up to 100 percent renewable energy 24/7 from the company ReEnergy, which refitted a coal fired plant at the facility to burn local biomass.

US military renewable energy

Solar installation at Fort Carson courtesy of USACE.

20 New Military Renewable Energy Contracts

The Army Corps of Engineers contracts are awarded under a streamlined process typically used for architecture and engineering projects called Multiple Award Task Order Contract. The winning companies are eligible to bid on upcoming projects, which is why we can’t tell you what the specific projects are. However, we do have a list of the awardees.

The $7 billion renewable energy program covers solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, but geothermal was left out of this round. That still left plenty of renewable energy goodies to go around.

Solar was the big winner, with 15 contracts spread among Ameresco Inc. (also known for wastewater-to-biogas), Chevron Energy Solutions Company (more on that later), Constellation NewEnergy, Distributed Sun LLC, EDF Renewable Energy, Energy Ventures LLC, First Solar Development, FLS Energy, ABM Government Services LLC, RE Independence CO LLC, SunEdison Government Solutions, SunEdison LLC, SunWize Technologies Inc., TransGen Energy Inc., and the aptly named Victory Renewables LLC.

Another three projects went to wind power. Despite some initial concerns over radar interference, the Defense Department has been dipping a toe into the wind market (here and here for example) where possible.

Ameresco nailed one of the three wind contracts and the other two went  M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. & Associates, Inc. and Infigen Energy US Development LLC.

That leaves two contracts for biomass, one of which was scored by Ameresco (there they go again) and the other by Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc.

All together, the $7 billion initiative now covers 79 contracts. It’s also worth noting here that the entire program is financed by third parties under power purchase agreements, so no taxpayers were injured in the making of all this renewable energy.

That financing structure also insulates the program from the conservative Republican budget axe, enabling the US renewable energy market to keep growing despite repeated attempts to cut it off at the knees (the fight over the wind power tax credit being just one notable example).

What Is Chevron Doing In The Solar Market?

Yes, that Chevron. Better known for its fossil fuel activity, the company purchased PG&E’s retail unit back in 2000 to form Chevron Energy Solutions, later bringing in Viron Energy Services.

It has been humming along ever since, mainly in solar with some fuel cell, smart grid, geothermal and wastewater/kitchen grease-to-energy thrown in.

For the record, aside from a series of major renewable energy projects with governments and schools, Chevron is also using solar energy to power its oil operations.

What John Kerry Said

Speaking of fossil fuel extraction, the Defense Department’s aggressive pursuit of renewable energy began a few years ago, so it predates US Secretary of State and well known climate hawk John Kerry. Kerry has more than picked up the ball, most recently with a barn burner of a climate change speech in Indonesia to kick off this week. Here’s one nugget:

When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.

Even without the climate change angle, that list resonates right here in the US, as the impacts of fossil fuel extraction continue to wreak havoc on local communities. On top of ongoing issues with mountaintop coal mining and oil/gas fracking, the last week alone has brought yet another coal spill to West Virginia, gas pipe explosions in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and a second leaking pipe under a coal ash dump in North Carolina.

In the context of military renewable energy, our troops are working to prevent the growth of local threats right here at home, so it would be nice if they got a little more support from certain federal representatives who seem more intent on letting things go to pot than helping to protect public health and safety.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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