US Army Marching to Advanced Energy Solutions
The U.S. Army wants you to spend all that you can spend.
With a mission to generate 25 percent of its energy from renewable and alternative sources—about 2 million megawatts of power—by 2025, the Army is opening its doors to private investors with the goal of raising $7.1 billion over the next 10 years.
And it couldn’t be easier. The Army is establishing an Energy Initiatives Office Task Force to serve as one-stop shopping for companies interested in large-scale projects on the Army’s 5 million acres of domestic properties and other sites overseas. The office opened Sept. 15.
“We’re not going to get this from Congress,” said Jonathan Powers, director of outreach for the Energy Initiatives Office. “We need to utilize private investment to do it. But we are authorized to streamline business practices, so we’re saying to developers—let’s see what you come to the table with, in well-thought out projects.”
The project is part of the Defense Department’s overall strategy to shift away from fossil fuels for the sake of troop safety, cost cutting and environmental benefits. Each branch of the military is developing its own programs. The Air Force, for example, is turning to biofuels to save on jet fuels. The Navy is using advanced biofuel to power boats. The Marines are using solar panels that roll up like beach mats like the one former Secretary of State George Shultz is displaying in the photo on the right.
The Army’s approach falls within a new strategy known as Net Zero, which seeks to reduce the overall consumption of resources on installations to an effective rate of zero. The Army describes Net Zero as a holistic approach to addressing the installation and operational issues surrounding energy, water and waste for the sake of current and future missions.
In a recent Army national security report, “U.S. Army Energy Security and Sustainability: Vital to National Defense,” the Army asks investors to:
- Accelerate development of alternative and renewable energy generation, supply, volume and reliability;
- Incorporate sustainability and participate in the creation of a level playing field for sustainable products and services through adoption of industry sustainability standards;
- Accelerate development of alternative fuels that meet all combat conditions and all combat needs;
- Pursue innovative solutions and technologies to address the Army’s efforts to secure energy sources and create a more sustainable force.
“We want to come up with the best opportunities and tap into the private markets,” Powers said. “We don’t want to be completely proscriptive. We want to be open to the best solutions.”
The possibilities are endless: The Army operates more than 300 bases in 48 states—all but Rhode Island and New Hampshire—plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In addition, the Army has installations in 16 foreign countries.
Currently, the Army spends about $4 billion a year on energy. During peacetime, two thirds is for facilities, followed by combat aircraft (16 percent), non-tactical vehicles (6), tactical vehicles (5), generators (3) and combat vehicles (3). The values shift during military operations.
The Army is offering investors four different financing programs, each with a different Return On Investment schedule.
The money will be primarily used for energy projects that replace older systems and provide a hedge against volatile energy markets, both of which the Army says pose a risk to operations. The result would lead to more secure, more sustainable and more affordable energy through a diversity of sources.
The Pentagon is also working with the Department of Energy to develop a list of projects beyond those that are base-related to include renewable solutions for vehicles and equipment used by soldiers. Powers said a soldier typically carries devices that require seven different types of batteries, which adds 15 pounds of weight to the body.
Speaking to reporters in August, Secretary of the Army John McHugh said the Army’s new strategy “is the right thing to do for the environment – certainly in this age of diminishing resources, the right thing to do for the federal taxpayers and, most importantly, the right thing to do for our soldiers.”
The Center for the Next Generation's sister organization Advanced Energy Economy is working with American Council on on Renewable Energy (ACORE) to understand the needs of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) with respect to advanced energy technologies that reduce costs and save lives. Learn more about the partnership »