Air Force, Army discuss renewable energy plans

military discuss energyWhen the U.S. military does something it’s generally not going to be on the small-scale. And that’s true of the Armed Forces’ efforts to convert to renewable energy. The Army and Air Force held “Renewable Energy Industry Day” on June 12, during which the services discussed how and why they plan to lead the U.S. in renewable energy. It comes down to one word: security.

The services discussed their plans during a round table. “The Army and Air Force [are] connecting and presenting one face to industry, said Hon. Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment & logistics. “There isn’t a whole lot of daylight between the way the services and the department as a whole think about energy and the way and reasons we approach [this].…It’s all about energy security, it’s about vulnerability, it’s about the business case, It’s all about doing what’s right in terms of dollars,” he said.

The services want to install gigawatts of renewable energy, like solar power on their bases, said John Lushetsky, Executive Director, Army Energy Initiatives Task Force. “Projects are being done to ensure energy security at army installations,” he said. That could include projects that are 100s of megawatts in size.

“We’re relying on the third-party private sector investors to bring those dollars into the construction of those projects on our installations,” Yonkers said. 

But at roughly $7 billion per gigawatt costs are still prohibitive. And the forces want to work with private companies to achieve cost-savings through incentives that they can not directly qualify for. “If we can’t reduce the kilowatt hour cost of doing business on our bases there’s not an economic incentive for us to pursue this,” Yonkers said. “This is going to be a challenge to the industry to try to figure out how to do in today’s environment when fossil fuels are still very competitive.”

The services’ commitments extend beyond the purchase of renewable energy to the purchase of biofuels. Already the Air Force is working on certifying all of its planes for use with biofuels. “Some entities think that biofuels and alternative fuels are going to get to the point where they are economically viable and within a 3 to 4 year period,” Yonkers said. The Army is taking similar steeps for it’s fleet of vehicles, according to Lushetsky.