When 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 Obama, in 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.”