The U.S. military is making huge strides in renewable energy, even in battle zones, while other agencies and business lag in efforts to get away from oil and coal dependence. The New York Times reports that solar energy technologies are being deployed in the war zone of Afghanistan, both to save money and decrease the risk to the troops. Portable solar panels, solar chargers, energy-conserving lights and other renewable technologies are being successfully used in the field.
Oil and gas make up the lion’s share of the current supply line to our troops in Afghanistan. Tankers have been attacked and troops injured while guarding the convoys. and transporting the fuel is enormously expensive. The Times notes: “While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400.” Price is certainly an incentive to innovation and one can only imagine how other business interests would get behind renewable energy if gas were $400 per gallon here.
The military is deeply involved in renewable energy at home as well, aided by its enormous purchasing power and a command-and-control structure that can make implementation happen rapidly. The Pentagon is the largest consumer of oil in the U.S., and is mandated to procure 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Partnerships with the private sector have been key to progress. The largest solar array in the country is at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Funded by private investors, the site provides one-fourth of the base’s energy needs and has the capability to feed energy back into the public grid. The U.S. Navy has set a target of 2016 to “sail the Strike Group as a Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running on biofuel, and aircraft running on biofuel.” And Scientific American reports that the U.S. military’s multiple projects in geothermal energy generation could eventually make it a net supplier to the U.S. power grid.
While efficiency and cost are factors in the military’s moves to go green, they have also officially recognized climate change as a grave security threat. The good news is that partnerships between the military and civilian renewable energy firms may help to develop the needed technology faster and eventually bring down the cost of renewables for the rest of us.
Photo: Department of Defense website