Time to Salute Our Military as They Save the Kilowatts

U.S. Army Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, Fort Bliss commander, gives a speech during the ribbon cutting for the solar panel project at Fort Bliss, Texas housing communities, Feb. 26, 2013. Source:

U.S. Army Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, Fort Bliss commander, gives a speech during the ribbon cutting for the solar panel project at Fort Bliss, Texas housing communities, Feb. 26, 2013. Source: defenseimagery.mil

In light of yesterday’s commendable day, the Defense Energy Summit (DES) is hosting its second annual forum in Austin, TX, and EDF is a proud sponsor once again. One of the goals for this conference is to build the foundation for a new Defense Energy Center of Excellence (DECE), which would enable Central Texas and military communities to create a test bed of clean energy technologies and policies. The DECE will help the Department of Defense (DoD) with its energy defense policy, organizational structure, education and training, manufacturing, logistics, personnel, and financing.

Texas’ capital is a logical spot to house the DECE, as Texas is home to 22 military installations – including five bases within 90 miles of Austin. Plus, the DECE could tap into the brain power at Texas universities, which are already charging forward with innovative clean energy solutions.

Leading the Charge

Although the DoD is the single largest consumer of fuel in the United States, the military has taken a significant interest in its energy footprint for one primary reason: energy security.

Transporting fuel is one of the riskiest operations when fighting on the front lines. Last year alone, the U.S. military consumed roughly 90 million barrels of oil. By powering military bases and equipment with solar energy, as well as reducing demand through energy efficiency, the military can help protect the brave men and women serving in our armed forces. The DoD can then use those avoided fuel costs for other projects, such as research and development, to meet the needs of its most critical missions.

Army partners with NREL

Most recently, the U.S. Army (Army) announced a partnership with the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in an effort to increase the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy at nine installations – one of which is in Texas. These pilot sites strive to be Net Zero Energy Installations (NZEI) by 2020, meaning they will produce just as much energy as they consume. If the pilots are successful, the Army will upgrade eight percent of current installations with renewable energy.

The savings really do add up, even with small energy reductions. NREL estimates that if Army installations worldwide reduce energy consumption by 25 percent, the Army would save up to $300 million in annual energy costs. That’s a lot of money that could be spent on our troops’ safety.

The Texas project is going not one but two steps further by aiming for net zero energy, water, and waste. As the largest military base (in terms of size) in the U.S., Fort Bliss has proposed a host of innovative technologies including a 20 megawatt (MW) solar installation, low-flow showerheads, smart meters on almost every building, and behavioral techniques to influence and increase conservation. In the words of Col. Joseph A. Simonelli Jr., Fort Bliss Garrison Commander, “this concept will include sustainability factors that improve the quality of life for Soldiers and families. With the right approach, we can take care of our Soldiers and families and help sustain the Army for the future.”

Other branches are taking up the clean energy fight, too

Here’s a rundown on how the other military branches stack up:

As the military’s largest consumer of fuel, the U.S. Air Force is taking great strides to reduce its energy footprint across the board. Some of its commitments include:

  • increasing the use of on-site renewable energy at facilities by 25 percent by 2025
  • only buying flex-fuel or alternative-fuel light-duty vehicles by 2015
  • constructing or renovating facilities to meet high-performance building standards in order to achieve net-zero energy use by 2030 and cut potable water consumption 26 percent by 2020

The U.S. Navy has added enough solar energy to power 440 homes at its Pearl Harbor installation. It also tripled its clean energy investment in Hawaii last year with a $30 million endowment to the Energy Excelerator, a funding agency for renewable energy start-ups in Hawaii.

The U.S. Marine Corps is building its own advanced microgrid at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, CA. This installation includes a notable 7.2 MW combined heat and power plant (CHP), the largest in the Marine Corps, which supplies more than half of the base's electricity needs. And, not only is it about to flip the switch on another energy-efficient 9.2 MW CHP plant, the base also harnesses 6 MW of solar PV arrays. Thanks to some alternative financing mechanisms, that’s a lot of generation that all comes at zero cost to taxpayers.

The biggest winner behind all of these installations is America. Through its leadership and ingenuity, the U.S. military is proving clean energy technologies are here and working for us today. That’s an impressive message as more electric utilities and states look to innovative technologies to improve grid reliability, lower electricity bills, and cut pollution from power plants.

If you are in Austin, please join in on this important conversation at the Defense Energy Summit. My colleagues Stephanie Kline, Marine Corps veteran and climate fighter, and John Finnigan are on the agenda covering fossil fuel dependency and cybersecurity. It’s not to be missed.

This post originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

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