U.S. DOD’s energy diet requires a lot more greens

An ACORE diagram of military energy spendingThe U.S. Department of Defense, the world’s single largest energy user, is going on a fossil fuel diet as it plans to quadruple its use of green energy like solar and wind by 2025, according to a recent study by Navigant’s Pike Research. The DOD’s move to green energy is seen as a security measure for the sprawling agency, which spends roughly $20 billion a year on energy costs. The report, “Renewable Energy for Military Applications”, discusses where the military is at in terms of boosting its use of green energy and what direction it is taking.

Over the past few years, top strategists in the military services have started to set ambitious, and achievable goals to green their use of energy. Last year the DOD said the armed forces agreed to install a total of 3 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025, with each branch—The Air Force, Army and Navy—installing 1 gigawatt of renewable energy. Meanwhile at least one study has shown that the military could install far more than that—7 gigawatts—on military bases in California and Nevada alone.

In a show of speed that typifies the Air Force, it has pledged to reach the goal of installing a gigawatt by 2016. It’s already installed 14 megawatts at the Nellis Air Force Base and is installing more. Likewise the Navy is installing a 14 megawatt array at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake. And the Army issued $7 billion in requests for proposals for solar last year. These are just a few of the ambitious installations already underway, including the SolarStrong project to solarize military living facilities across the U.S.

To do this, however, the military will significantly boosting its spending on renewables. “U.S. military spending on renewable energy programs, including conservation measures, will reach almost $1.8 billion in 2025,” said Pike Research analyst Dexter Gauntlett. “This effort has the potential to not only transform the production, consumption, and transport of fuel and energy within the military; it will likely make the DOD one of the most important drivers of cleantech in the United States.” It also represents a significant growth in annual clean energy spending from $163 million in 2013.

The report divides the DOD’s ambitions into three main applications: power generation and energy efficiency at U.S. bases, transportation and soldier power. Solar is most applicable in bases and for soldier power, while transportation will likely look to a wider range of solutions like biofuels, solar, wind and more.

A large driving force for adding in more renewable energy will be the use of power-purchase agreements and enhanced used leases, according to the report. Through such third-party mechanisms the armed forces can gain access to incentives they otherwise would not be eligible to receive. 

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