Changing Military Energy One Solar Cell at a Time

By Jessica Hill
Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center

Sustainable energy is more than just a buzzword for the U.S. Army. After the president challenged the military to “go green,” the Department of Defense (DoD) –the largest government consumer of energy in the United States– has committed to producing three gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025 in order to meet the requirements of a larger DoD mandate which highlights that at least 25 percent of any DoD facility energy consumption must come from renewable energy sources. The domestic use of renewable energy not only reduces the cost, it also increases the security of military energy by allowing for self-sufficiency.

Seven people dig into the sand, each person representing a key organization and symbolically breaking ground for the upcoming solar panel farm, which is about to be built by Georgia Power on Fort Stewart, Ga., May 15, 2015. From left, Lt. Col. Tom Woodie, deputy commander, Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Amanda Simpson, executive director, Army Office of Energy Initiatives; Chuck Eaton, chairman, Georgia Public Service Commission; Brig. Gen. Jim Blackburn, commander, Task Force Marne, 3rd Infantry Division; Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the army (energy and sustainability); Kenneth Coleman, senior vice president of marketing, Georgia Power; and Torre Jessup, regional administrator, General Services Administration. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley/U.S. Army/Released)

Seven people dig into the sand, each person representing a key organization and symbolically breaking ground for the upcoming solar panel farm, which is about to be built by Georgia Power on Fort Stewart, Ga., May 15, 2015. From left, Lt. Col. Tom Woodie, deputy commander, Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Amanda Simpson, executive director, Army Office of Energy Initiatives; Chuck Eaton, chairman, Georgia Public Service Commission; Brig. Gen. Jim Blackburn, commander, Task Force Marne, 3rd Infantry Division; Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the army (energy and sustainability); Kenneth Coleman, senior vice president of marketing, Georgia Power; and Torre Jessup, regional administrator, General Services Administration. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley/U.S. Army/Released)

Army bases have begun utilizing solar, and other, renewable energies. Fort Stewart Army Base, Georgia is installing a solar generation array as a part of the Army-Georgia 3×30 endeavor. When completed, Fort Stewart will produce more renewable energy than any other installation throughout the DoD. This array will be the first of three established at Fort Stewart, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon.

Georgia Army bases are not the only ones advancing domestic energy efficiency goals. Fort Detrick Army Base, Maryland also recently broke ground on a solar energy project. The 60,000 solar panel initiative will provide about 10 percent of Fort Detrick’s energy requirement.

Each year, the military spends $4 billion on energy to operate its bases. In addition to cost savings, renewable and reliable energy sources can be vital in protecting the military’s energy security. Energy grids are vulnerable in the event of attack or natural disaster. With the ability to generate energy on-site, the military is able to power and operate mission-critical activities, even when the commercial power grid fails.

“Energy security underwrites our unique ability to rapidly deploy, employ and sustain military forces around the globe,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment in a press release. “It’s for that reason the Army is moving toward building resilience into our installations.”

In addition to solar power, the Army is working on projects including wind, biodiesel, biomass and combined heat and power. Fort Knox Army Base, Kentucky proved it could operate independent of the commercial power grid by harvesting natural gas below the post’s surface. These advancements in sustainable energy on military bases are critical to supporting cost savings and security initiatives, both key missions for the DoD.

Story and information provided by the Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center
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