Energy Exchange

Four Ways the U.S. Military Can Adopt Clean Energy for National Security


Ribbon cutting ceremony for the Fort Carson solar array. U.S. Army photo by Michael J. Pach.

At the U.S. Defense Department, the multiple national security threats created by sea level rise and severe weather command daily attention; climate change has been on its radar for years.  The recently published Quadrennial Defense Report (QDR), an assessment of U.S. defense readiness, addresses the growing threat that climate change poses to military capabilities and global operations. Adding to that, the newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that extreme weather events will begin occurring more frequently across the globe. As first responders in the wake of extreme weather events, the U.S. military will be called upon to provide emergency support and services for a large portion of them.

The timing of these reports highlights a growing defense challenge but also provides an opportunity for the Defense Department to lead from the front in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Read More »

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America’s Military Renewables Plan Fast-Tracked And Mission Critical

By: Jillian Jordan, EDF Energy Marketing & Communications Intern

This months’ announcement from the White House calling for green energy bids and its plan to fast-track wind and solar projects delivered a clear message that renewable energy is something the American military – and its government – whole-heartily believes in. The federal government’s Renewable Energy Partnership Plan (Plan), headed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of the Interior (DOI), is pushing new project development on and near numerous military installations to the tune of $7 billion dollars.

Even more compelling is the fact that clean energy is now considered part of America’s national security plan by key political figures and the DoD. The White House’s Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant for Energy and Climate Change, has commended this strategic move towards clean energy and endorsed the Plan as “operationally necessary, financially prudent and mission critical.”

So mission critical, in fact, that the Army has planned the incorporation of renewables as a high-priority tactic for saving lives. Military convoys have long been known to be one of the most dangerous operations, costing more lives than many other career fields in the armed forces. When supplies like gasoline run out, transportation troops are assigned the duty of delivering them through hostile territory. For every 24 fuel resupply missions, one American life is lost – which constitutes one out of every eight deaths in Iraq. Using clean energy actually saves lives for today’s military. The less fossil fuel used and the less dependent we are on oil, the less convoy trips are needed for refueling and to run diesel generators that power military tents, therefore minimizing the risk for American troops. 

The alternative energy infrastructure projects under the Plan will create jobs favoring local economies, produce about 7,200 megawatts of energy and utilize millions of acres of public lands and offshore areas that are best suited for wind and solar projects, all while meeting the goals of the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005. Under the Act, the military has voluntary plans for 25% of its energy produced by clean sources by 2025.

“Developing renewable energy is the right thing to do for national security, as well as for the environment and our economy,” Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said. “Renewable energy projects built on these lands will provide reliable, local sources of power for military installations; allow for a continued energy supply if the commercial power grid gets disrupted; and will help lower utility costs.”

In addition to becoming independent from the national grid, utility costs have been upwards of $4 billion annually and the task force assigned to the Plan is determined to lower the DoD’s energy bill and curtail energy usage. But, above all, the goal is to maintain the military’s ability to remain powered during mission-critical times. Conditions of the Plan offer an added safety net in the event of a massive blackout or, for a worst-case-scenario attack on America’s power grid.

Preliminary site evaluation began with DOI’s Smart from the Start initiative under Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  Pilot projects are currently underway in Arizona, California, Nevada and Wyoming, with more fast-tracked proposals to be announced in the next few weeks. The Renewable Energy Partnership Plan signed between the two agencies would allow the military to purchase power produced from homegrown, renewable energy sources, which could lead to a reduction in clean energy costs and an overall boost to the alternative energy sector.

Of the DOI’s 28 million acres, 16 million of which were designated for defense, 13 million that are rich in resources and ideal for wind, solar and geothermal power generation. “Our nation’s military lands hold great renewable energy potential, and this partnership will help ensure that we’re tapping into these resources with a smart and focused approach to power our military, reduce energy costs, and grow our nation’s energy independence,” Salazar said.

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North Carolina celebrates ‘American Wind Week’ with optimism for the future

Governor Roy Cooper has issued a proclamation recognizing August 5-11 as “American Wind Week” here in North Carolina. It’s a good time to reflect on our clean energy progress – as a nation and as a state – and to consider what’s next.

The amount of energy generated from wind turbines has more than tripled in the United States in the last decade, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), representing 6.3 percent of the nation’s generation mix last year. The Tar Heel state can take credit for a tiny portion of that with the 104 turbines generating power at the Amazon East Wind Farm near Elizabeth City, but we are lagging behind with wind representing only 0.4 percent of our state’s energy mix. Read More »

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How this 300-year-old city is leading on U.S. solar, energy-water, and climate action

By Kate Zerrenner, Jaclyn Rambarran

On May 5, 2018, the city of San Antonio will officially be 300 years old! On that day in 1718, the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar (a Spanish fort) was founded. The city’s tricentennial celebration will culminate in a weeklong celebration of history, art, and culture the first week of May.

San Antonio is a unique place that should be honored in Texas and beyond. In addition to its strong Hispanic heritage, the city boasts a large military population, straddles the border between eastern, western, and southern U.S., and claims to be the birthplace of breakfast tacos.

This growing city also has a powerful role to play in the future of Texas and the United States in terms of climate change and air quality, as evidenced by its initiatives around renewable energy, the energy-water nexus, and climate action. With all this in mind, let’s take a moment to celebrate not just San Antonio’s momentous birthday, but also its impressive efforts to ensure the sustainability of the city going forward. Read More »

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As moratorium on North Carolina wind power winds down, economic opportunity appears on the horizon

I’ve never been more optimistic about wind power in North Carolina and the benefits it will bring our state. And, given that we’re in the middle of a very unfortunate 18-month moratorium on wind project permits, that’s saying something.

I’m optimistic because the benefits of wind power are making themselves crystal clear. Here are few of the highlights:

More money for individuals and communities

In Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, Avangrid Renewables — the operator of the Amazon Wind Farm — has become the largest taxpayer after just one year of operation. Avangrid’s $520,000 annual local tax payments provide a big boost for the community, because they create new opportunities for investments in local schools, fire departments, and public safety services. Read More »

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Illinois blazes new trail in anticipation of private microgrids using utility wires

On May 9, Andrew Barbeau, senior clean energy consultant for Environmental Defense Fund, will speak at the Microgrid 2018 conference. This year’s theme is Markets and Models for the Greater Good, and Andrew will discuss the effort to create a new microgrid tariff for third-party-managed microgrids as described in this post. You can register for the conference here.

Imagine you and your neighbors have solar panels on your roofs. You want to create a mini-power grid so that your neighborhood can operate solely on your panels’ electricity, even sending excess power from one home to another. And if there’s a storm that affects the main power grid, your homes can disconnect and stay powered.

This is the vision that microgrid proponents have promised for the past decade: small sections of the broader grid that incorporate rooftop solar and batteries, and can isolate from the grid as a whole when needed. Yet, this promise faces a major hurdle: The utility owns the wires that connect your homes and has an exclusive monopoly on that electrical infrastructure. This has driven most microgrid projects in the U.S. to either be completely “behind the meter” of a single customer, or owned and managed by the utility itself.

A new agreement with Illinois’ largest utility, ComEd, is poised to jump that hurdle. Working with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), ComEd will begin a process this year to allow customers or third parties to develop and manage their own microgrid projects – working with the utility’s existing infrastructure rather than having to avoid it.

We have received lots of questions on how this will work. Here are your questions answered. Read More »

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