US Military Taking No Risks by Going Green, Saving Lives and Energy

May 23, 2016 By Ken Silverstein

military installationWhen the US Department of Defense wraps itself in the flag, it conjures up images of heroic soldiers. The agency is still known for its bravery but it’s now also known for its use of green energy, battery storage and microgrids — that is saving the lives of soldiers in the battle field while also producing cleaner energy.

Consider: The Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego is using using solar panels whose energy is stored in batteries and delivered over a localized microgrid. Here, Raytheon is working with the National Reneweable Energy Laboratory and Primus Power, which developed the battery. Besides US military installations, hospitals and chip makers are also using the technologies — organizations that cannot afford any power outages or that can afford to be hacked.

As for Raytheon, the Defense Department sets the goals and helps finance the cause while the defense contractor is charged with ensuring performance. Raytheon engineers the concepts and writes the software that “glues it all together,” the company says.
“When we think about power, we can’t have a short power interruption or a cyber hack,” says Mark Russell, vice president for technology at defense contractor Raytheon Co., in an earlier interview. “We need to be able to operate off the grid.”

Altogether, the Defense Department has set a lofty goal for itself to consume 3,000 megawatts from renewable sources by 2025. Getting there is an imperative, given that it is now spending $4 billion annually to power its current installations and operations, says Russell. The major costs are the logistics associated with moving the generators and fuels — items that could eventually be displaced with 21st Century technologies.

Last week, Energy Manager Today reported on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Massachusetts, which is testing a local microgrid there as a way to cope with system-wide outages that occur over the centralized grid. That project will work with onsite generation and battery storage, including a 10 megawatt combined heat and power plant. The naval station is working with Ameresco and GE, which obtained funding from the Defense Department.

How do these efforts save lives? The military, in fact, is the world’s most voracious consumer of energy. But specifically, it is using fossil fuels on the battlefield that can run low and put people at risk. By carrying sustainable sources of power with them, soldiers are reducing their risks — while also creating fewer emissions.

The armed forces is moving on several fronts. The Defense Department will increase its commitment to renewable energy to 3 gigawatts. That includes solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, all of which will be placed in army, navy and air force installations by 2025. That would equate to 25 percent of their total energy needs. About 450 green energy projects are now operating around the globe.

“Renewable energy is critical to making our bases more energy secure,” says President Obamain a statement. “Together with emerging microgrid and storage technologies, reliable, local sources of renewable power will increase the energy security of our nation’s military installations. By doing so, the U.S. Department of Defense is better able to carry out its mission to defend the nation.”

One comment on “US Military Taking No Risks by Going Green, Saving Lives and Energy

  1. Somebody writing for Energy Manager Today should have a basic grasp of energy density, power density, and EROI. Silverstein’s uncritical parroting of Pentagon propaganda proves he does not.

    Biofuels and batteries have lower energy density than fossil fuels, and thus increase the amount of troops and vehicles needed to transport the same amount of energy on the battlefield. Internal combustion and turbine engines have higher power density than battery-electric powerplants and far higher power density than solar and wind arrays. Thus they are much more combat effective and present a much smaller target to the enemy per unit of energy service and combat power delivered. Fragile solar farms and wind turbines are hardly sustainable in combat, and they are neither compact nor mobile nor compliant with MILSPEC requirements for all-weather performance.

    To illustrate the folly being promoted by this author and the compliant careerists in the Pentagon, let us consider two actual systems, the Marine Corps GREENS 300-W PV solar and battery system, and the Marine Corps ITEG trailer-mounted 22-kW diesel generator unit.

    Greens comprises 8 solar panels and four cases of batteries. To match the power output of the 4,000 lb generator towed by a single HMMWV with a crew of 4 Marines it requires 73 GREENS weighing 66,000 lb pulled by 73 HMMWV crewed by 292 Marines. The food and fuel and water and ammo needs for these crews are also multiplied by 73, adding additional convoy burdens and putting literally hundreds more people in harm’s way for the solar option. Each combat outpost tent requiring power would instead of a single generator have to be ringed by an acre of solar panels, making it the center of a conspicuous bullseye of reflective glass ready-made to splinter into deadly shrapnel — a huge and soft target no enemy could miss. Even if there is no enemy endless man-hours will be consumed in setting up and taking down and cleaning the panels instead of cleaning weapons or performing genuine military functions. More than one day of overcast or rain or dust storm and the batteries are dead and the troops are SOL. A high-tech force with dead batteries is a low-tech force. Our enemies hope we continue to focus on alternative (aka virtual) energy while they focus on real combat power.

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