Top Ten United States Military Clean Technology Initiatives

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In 2007, the United States Congress gave the Department of Defense specific orders to have a minimum of 25 percent of all energy come from renewable sources of energy by the year 2025. According to the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Defense’s director of Facilities Energy, Joe Sikes, “Renewable sources make us less vulnerable.” In many combat zones, wind and solar generators are replacing fuel trucks, and it is said that the use of renewable energy will make all military bases more energy independent and immune from utility grid threats in international bases.

1) Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. The Department of Defense’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan was published in 2010 and targets immediate improvement in waste management, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficiency. White House Executive Order 13514 lists the economic, environmental, and energy goals and the Department of Defense offers a comprehensive approach for complying with all federal requirements, including energy and reliance on fossil fuels, water resources management, chemicals of environmental concern, and maintaining readiness in the face of climate change.

2) Biofuel-Powered U.S. Navy Aircrafts. In 2010, the Navy launched into the air an unmodified F/A 18 Super Hornet powered by biofuels. This F/A 18 flew on a 50/50 mix of camelina biofuels and petroleum. This flight showed off the Navy’s objective of decreasing its use of fossil fuels by 50 percent by the year 2020. Numerous commercial airlines have also found biofuels to be extremely efficient in their testing, however, because of the higher performance and altitudes; the Navy needs more powerful fuel sources.

3) Army Installation Renewable Energy Program. The United States Army Energy Strategy for Installations, created in 2007, rests upon give major initiatives that are to be completed within the next 25 years – getting rid of energy waste in all existing facilities, increasing energy efficiency in building renovations and new constructions, reduction of fossil fuel dependence by utilizing renewable energy sources, conserving water resources, and improving total energy security. The projects are accomplished through an Energy Conservation Investment Program, Military Construction and Army Program, Energy Savings Performance Contract, and Enhanced Use Leasing Program.

4) Fort Irwin Solar Power Installation. In 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers created and signed an agreement with Irwin Energy Security Partners to erect a $2 billion 500 megawatt solar energy complex in California’s Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin by the year 2014 and will provide enough energy to fully sustain the army base. The Army is set to lease approximately 14,000 acres to Irwin Energy Security Partners. This is the largest Department of Defense solar project to date. Eventually, the project will expand to 1,000 megawatts.

5) Navy to Launch their own Green Fleet. Named the “Great Green Fleet,” the Navy is looking to create a fully biofuels driven navy fleet by the year 2016, including planes, ships, and submarines. Not only is this to reduce the impact on the environment, but it is also to save costs. For example, it can cost around $400 for a gallon of gas in war zone areas. Numerous Naval vessels burn off diesel fuel and aviation fuel that is biologically based is already used. However, the biggest hurdle to successfully completing the Great Green Fleet will be to supply the necessary amount of biofuels, as a ship like a destroyer burns off a lot of biodiesel.

6) United States Army to Use Renewable Sources of Energy in Afghanistan. Possibly one of the largest challenges faced by the army in Afghanistan is getting necessary diesel fuel to military bases. Because the areas to get fuel are scattered across the country, the army must take truck conveys over large distances. As such, numerous soldiers have been killed or injured on route by roadside bombs and IEDs. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been in Afghanistan to locate other power sources to decrease refueling trips. One of the ideas has been solar power as the country offers plenty of sunshine and open spaces necessary to set up photovoltaic panels.

7) Replacing Lights in Army Tents and Bases. Gone are the days when army tents were lit using kerosene lamps and flickering incandescent. Not only that but CFLs are about to no longer be in use. In 2010, Techshot won a one year contract worth $328,000 from the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSDEC) to advance solid-state lighting technologies in shelters for field applications. The objective is to create LED lights that are field ready. They are supposed to last an estimated 100,000 hours, lowering the total cost the Department of Defense spends on an annual basis for lighting. According to James Cherry, the Business Development Director for Techshot, “On the battlefield, the fewer gallons of fuel consumed to support lighting needs the better…Ours not only is more efficient than fluorescent systems, it is also extremely robust and will survive the rigors of deployment much longer than the tent itself. In fact, virtually no logistical support will be required during its nearly 100,000 hour expected life. This equates to a very low total life cycle cost per unit.”

8 ) The United States Military has the Objective to Utilize 50 Percent Renewable Energy by 2020. Due to cost and safety, the Military has been seen as one of the strongest proponents of utilizing renewable energy. This is why the higher-ups in the military are making the plan to use a minimum of 50 percent of renewable sources of energy by 2020. The Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, has stated that abroad, the fuel conveys are the biggest targets of insurgents, causing harm to not only the delivery system, but also the soldiers delivering it. In one study, out of 24 fuel convoys, one soldier is killed in an attack. The 150 Marines of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines were the first troop to utilize renewable energy abroad. They brought portable solar panels, solar tents, and solar chargers. They are hoping this serves as a model for future troops.

9) Navy Bases to be Retrofitted with LED Lighting. The Ventura County base in California is being retrofitted with LED lighting. This will include 1,084 light fixtures to be replaced. The end result is a 60 percent reduction in total energy consumption around the base. Also to be reduced are greenhouse gas emissions, total maintenance costs, and overall power consumption the total project at the base will save the Navy over $45,000 in utilities and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 228 metric tons over the lifespan of the LED lights. In less than three years, these lights will have paid for themselves, allowing the base to enjoy another nine years of complete savings until the bulb dies.

10) Air Force Uses Sustainable Fuel Source for A-10C Thunderbolt Jet. In 2010, the Air Force hit a new milestone when an A-10C Thunderbolt Jet at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida took off with plant-based biofuels in its engine. Being the largest consumer of oil in the entire Department of Defense with more than two billion gallons annually, the Air Force is looking to reduce reliance on fossil fuels within the next few years. This is the start of the Air Force’s overall objective of ensuring that half of its entire fleet runs on alternative energy biofuels by the year 2016. By 2012, the Air Force wants to make sure all their current aircrafts are properly certified to fully operate on bio-based fuels.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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