Military’s Shift Toward Renewable Energy

By HDIAC Staff

To achieve military operational success, the Department of Defense (DoD) relies on one mission-essential resource: energy. The DoD is the largest government consumer of energy in the United States, with petroleum-based liquid fuels composing approximately two-thirds of the DoD’s consumption.

The DoD has requisitioned the deployment of 3 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy to power military facilities by 2025.  This meets a larger DoD mandate, Title 10 USC § 2911, which directs at least 25 percent of any DoD facility energy consumption come from renewable energy sources. Implementing alternatives has evolved from increasing energy distribution costs, foreign oil dependency, the threat of energy supply disruptions and the need for more secure and clean energy generation and distribution.

20150622_Alternative Energy_Spotlight Military's Shift Toward Renewable Energy

Aerial view of the 2 MW photovoltaic system at U.S. Army Fort Carson. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

Army Initiatives

The Army, the most populous branch of the military, consumes less energy than the Navy or Air Force because of the Army’s reliance on the Air Force and the Military Sealift Command for transportation.  The Army’s energy consumption is   concentrated in its installations, which consume an average of 21 million barrels of petroleum per year. The DoD’s shift toward energy security has encouraged Army energy initiatives, including the Army Energy Security Implementation Strategy, which requires at  least  five installations  meet “net-zero” energy goals by 2020 and deploy 1 GW of renewable  energy on their installations by 2025.

Energy initiatives have begun at several bases since the inception of the energy strategy. Fort Stewart, predicted to be one of the largest renewable solar energy producers in the state of Georgia, is constructing a solar farm capable of generating around 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which is expected to be the largest project on any DoD installation. Additionally, Fort Hood is implementing a wind and solar project at the installation in Texas that will provide 230 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy. The Army’s implementation of these multiple alternative energy projects will strengthen economic vitality and research in this domain.

USS Princeton alongside the USNS Henry J. Kaiser to refuel with biofuel at sea during the Great Green Fleet demonstration at the RIMPAC 2012 exercise. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

USS Princeton alongside the USNS Henry J. Kaiser to refuel with biofuel at sea during the Great Green Fleet demonstration at the RIMPAC 2012 exercise. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

Navy Initiatives

The Secretary of the Navy objectives include increasing energy security and enhancing warfighter capabilities through the implementation of renewable energy. In FY 2013, relative to its 2003 baseline, the Navy and Marine Corps reduced their combined energy intensity by 19.3 percent. The Navy has a comprehensive goal of producing 1 GW of renewable energy by 2020—five years earlier than the Army. The Navy’s energy goals include: energy efficient acquisition, reduction of petroleum use, production of 50 percent clean energy installations on shore, and the sailing of the Great Green Fleet.

The development and deployment of the Great Green Fleet will include more energy efficient ships and aircraft in addition to utilizing alternative energy, predominantly nuclear power. In 2012, the Navy successfully completed one interim goal by demonstrating the capabilities of the Great Green Fleet during the world’s largest international maritime exercise, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise.

Prior to 2013, the Navy completed its largest solar project to date, a 14 MW photovoltaic power system at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California. This installation is expected to save the Navy more than $13 million over the next 20 years and will generate enough clean energy to supply a third of the facility’s annual electricity demand.

Air Force Initiatives

The Air Force is responsible for utilizing more than 2.4 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, making it the largest DoD energy consumer. Implementation of the Air Force Energy Strategic Plan includes four priorities: improve resiliency, reduce demand, assure supply and foster an energy awareness culture. Like the Army and Navy, the Air Force has a goal of producing 1 GW of renewable energy, but wants this goal to support on-site capacity by 2016. The Air Force is also pushing toward ensuring all new buildings are designed to achieve zero-net-energy by 2030, beginning in 2020.

In FY 2013, the Air Force had approximately 261 renewable energy projects, including solar and waste-to-energy using landfill gas and wind energy. Cape Cod Air Force Station is the first Air Force net-zero installation, using wind power turbines on site. These turbines generate approximately 8,000 MW of electricity, saving Cape Cod an estimated $1 million per year. These projects are a few examples of how the Air Force plans to continue operations by making the shift to alternative energy usage.


The military’s shift toward renewable energy is not just a political directive but also an operational imperative. Improvements toward energy alternatives can increase warfighter efficiency, enhance energy security and cut installation and operational energy costs. Between 2010 and 2012, DoD renewable energy projects increased 43 percent and are anticipated to exponentially increase over the next 20 years. DoD’s implementation of alternative energy and supporting infrastructure is one area where DoD is utilizing industry to promote research thus fortifying energy security across the nation.

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