The U.S. Department of Defense, which uses more energy than many nations, is pushing the front lines on solar and renewable energy. At least that’s according to a new white paper “Navigating by the Sun: U.S. Department of Defense Takes Aggressive Lead as Early Adopters of Solar Energy" by Principal Solar. The white paper explores what the branches of the military are doing and will do as they move forward on an aggressive timeline to increase the DOD’s energy security by sourcing 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Among other things, the paper, written by retired Rebecca Halstead, Brigadier General and Principal Solar CEO Michael Gorton, cited a Pew Charitable Trusts report which showed that DOD spending on renewables has increased from $400 million in 2006 to $1.2 billion in 2009. And it’s slated to rise far beyond that, to $10 billion annually, by 2030. That’s almost as much as the DOD spent on energy in 2009. “In fiscal year 2009, the DoD spent just over $13.2 billion dollars on the consumption of 932 trillion BTU [i.e. British thermal units] of energy,” Gorton said.
The armed forces will pursue renewable energy domestically and internationally. “I suspect our priority will be the continental U.S., especially with the downsizing and reorganization of many overseas commands,” said Halstead.
However, there will also be an important place for solar on the military’s front lines. “There are also strategic reasons to have portable solar delivered to remote locations so that delivery of fuel for generating is significantly reduced,” Gorton said. “This helps to lower cost as well as save lives from potential attacks on fuels delivery."
The move will also be driven by the military’s budget reductions. “The budget cuts will drive this because of the cost of the generators. I'm not certain it is categorized as an urgent operational need even though there are long term benefits,” Halstead.
Morton added that the falling costs of solar also will drive adoption. “In the next two years, as solar approaches grid parity, we will see significant acceleration in the utilization resulting from the strategic benefits coupled with the cost savings,” he said.
Among some of the armed forces’ stated goals are the Army having five net-zero energy installations by 2020 and 30 by 2030 and the Navy sourcing 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, Morton said. Meanwhile the Air Force is already recognized by the Environmental Protection agency as a Green Power Partner.