The Navy’s announcement last week that it is entering into largest purchase of energy by the federal government to date puts a renewed focus on the military’s commitment to renewable energy. A formal signing of the power purchase agreement (PPA) is set this week with Sempra Energy, which will provide, beginning next year, enough electricity from the company’s massive Mesquite 3 solar farm under construction in Arizona to meet at least one third of the power needs at 14 military installations in California.
The move is one of many being taken by the Department of Defense and the major military services to meet a larger mandate established by an appropriations bill five years ago that directs at least 25 percent of any defense facility’s energy consumption come from renewable energy sources by 2025.
According to a summary published by staff with the DoD’s Homeland Defense and Security Information Analysis Center (HDIAC) of military efforts to green it’s power, the military is the largest government consumer of energy in the United States, with petroleum-based liquid fuels composing approximately two-thirds of the department’s consumption.
To achieve military operational success, HDIAC officials say, the Defense Department has been in an ongoing process to implement energy alternatives to avoid increasing energy distribution costs, foreign oil dependency and the threat of energy supply disruptions. The nation’s military leaders also see it as a way to meet the need for more secure and clean energy generation and distribution.
The Army, the most populous branch of the military, actually consumes less energy than the Navy or Air Force because of its reliance on the Air Force and the Military Sealift Command for transportation. However, the concentration of the Army’s energy consumption in its installations – they burn an average of 21 million barrels of petroleum per year – has prompted initiatives like an Energy Security Implementation Strategy that requires at least five installations to meet “net-zero” energy goals by 2020 and deploy 1 GW of renewable energy on their installations by 2025.
For example, Fort Stewart, which is predicted to be one of the largest renewable solar energy producers in the state of Georgia, is constructing a solar farm capable of generating around 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which is expected to be the largest solar project on any DoD installation. Additionally, Fort Hood is implementing a wind and solar project at the installation in Texas that will provide 230 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who has been a major renewable energy and energy security advocate, has spearheaded the most recent efforts that have seen the Navy and Marine Corps reduce their combined energy intensity by 19.3 percent over a decade. The Navy also has a comprehensive goal of producing 1 GW of renewable energy by 2020 ‑ five years earlier than the Army. The branch’s goals also include energy efficient acquisition, the reduction of petroleum use, the production of 50 percent clean energy installations on shore, and the sailing of the Great Green Fleet, which includes ships and aircraft capable of using clean energy such as biofuels.
The Air Force utilizes 2.4 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, making it the largest DoD energy consumer. The branch’s Energy Strategic Plan aims to improve resiliency, reduce demand, assure supply and foster an energy awareness culture. Like the Army and Navy, the Air Force has a goal of producing 1 GW of renewable energy, but wants the goal to support on-site capacity by 2016. By fiscal 2013, the Air Force had approximately 261 renewable energy projects, including solar and waste-to-energy using landfill gas and wind energy. Cape Cod Air Force Station is the first Air Force net-zero installation, using wind power turbines on site that generate some 8,000 MW of electricity, saving Cape Cod an estimated $1 million per year.
Another driver behind the American military’s move to clean sources of energy is climate change – a threat that military leaders continue to warn policy makers is very real and will impact the military, whether it’s responding to natural disasters or responding to conflicts caused by scarce resources. While boosting the military energy readiness by actively promoting low-and no-carbon energy alternatives, the Defense Department is also working to reduce its use of fossil fuels and the resulting greenhouse gases being produced. As HDIAC officials point out, the military’s shift toward renewable energy is not just a political directive, but also an operational imperative. 25x’25 is proud to include the DoD as a collaborating partner and is even more proud of their accomplishments and progress towards achieving the 25x’25 goal!