U.S. Department of Defense Goes Big On Wind, Solar, and Biomass

by Tina Casey

We’ve been following a massive $7 billion renewable energy buy that the Department of Defense kicked off a while back, and the program is really picking up steam.

In the latest round of developments, yesterday the US Army Corps of Engineers paired up with the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF) to announce contracts with 20 more companies.

Renewable Energy. Solar installation at Fort Carson courtesy of USACE.
Renewable Energy. Solar installation at Fort Carson courtesy of USACE. The brigade and battalion headquarters building, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, features an on-site solar array, which supplies approximately 62 percent of the building’s electrical power needs.

If that Army task force rings a bell, we just noted yesterday that EITF swung a deal for Fort Drum in New York to get up to 100 percent renewable energy 24/7 from the company ReEnergy, which refitted a coal fired plant at the facility to burn local biomass.

20 New Military Renewable Energy Contracts

The Army Corps of Engineers contracts are awarded under a streamlined process typically used for architecture and engineering projects called Multiple Award Task Order Contract. The winning companies are eligible to bid on upcoming projects, which is why we can’t tell you what the specific projects are. However, we do have a list of the awardees.

The $7 billion renewable energy program covers solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, but geothermal was left out of this round. That still left plenty of renewable energy goodies to go around.

Solar was the big winner, with 15 contracts spread among Ameresco Inc. (also known for wastewater-to-biogas), Chevron Energy Solutions Company (more on that later), Constellation NewEnergy, Distributed Sun LLC, EDF Renewable Energy, Energy Ventures LLC, First Solar Development, FLS Energy, ABM Government Services LLC, RE Independence CO LLC, SunEdison Government Solutions, SunEdison LLC, SunWize Technologies Inc., TransGen Energy Inc., and the aptly named Victory Renewables LLC.

Another three projects went to wind power. Despite some initial concerns over radar interference, the Defense Department has been dipping a toe into the wind market (here and here for example) where possible.

Ameresco nailed one of the three wind contracts and the other two went  M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. & Associates, Inc. and Infigen Energy US Development LLC.

That leaves two contracts for biomass, one of which was scored by Ameresco (there they go again) and the other by Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc.

All together, the $7 billion initiative now covers 79 contracts. It’s also worth noting here that the entire program is financed by third parties under power purchase agreements, so no taxpayers were injured in the making of all this renewable energy.

That financing structure also insulates the program from the conservative Republican budget axe, enabling the US renewable energy market to keep growing despite repeated attempts to cut it off at the knees (the fight over the wind power tax credit being just one notable example).

What Is Chevron Doing In The Solar Market?

Yes, that Chevron. Better known for its fossil fuel activity, the company purchased PG&E’s retail unit back in 2000 to form Chevron Energy Solutions, later bringing in Viron Energy Services.

It has been humming along ever since, mainly in solar with some fuel cell, smart grid, geothermal and wastewater/kitchen grease-to-energy thrown in.

For the record, aside from a series of major renewable energy projects with governments and schools, Chevron is also using solar energy to power its oil operations.

What John Kerry Said

Speaking of fossil fuel extraction, the Defense Department’s aggressive pursuit of renewable energy began a few years ago, so it predates US Secretary of State and well known climate hawk John Kerry. Kerry has more than picked up the ball, most recently with a barn burner of a climate change speech in Indonesia to kick off this week. Here’s one nugget:

When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.

Even without the climate change angle, that list resonates right here in the US, as the impacts of fossil fuel extraction continue to wreak havoc on local communities. On top of ongoing issues with mountaintop coal mining and oil/gas fracking, the last week alone has brought yet another coal spill to West Virginia, gas pipe explosions in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and a second leaking pipe under a coal ash dump in North Carolina.

In the context of military renewable energy, our troops are working to prevent the growth of local threats right here at home, so it would be nice if they got a little more support from certain federal representatives who seem more intent on letting things go to pot than helping to protect public health and safety.

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This article, Department of Defense Goes Big On Wind, Solar, And Biomass, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy. Tina CaseyTina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

US Military at 2.1 Gigawatts of Renewable Energy now, on track for 3GW

by Tina Casey.

If you want to check out the amazing transition of the US armed services from fossil fuel dependency to renewable, locally sourced energy, you can find it all wrapped up in a neat little package called Power Surge, a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts and partner Navigant. The raw numbers are impressive, with more than 2,000 new energy conservation and renewable energy projects currently installed at military facilities.

What’s even more impressive is the rapid pace of the military renewable energy transition, despite a concerted effort by certain members of Congress to hobble renewable energy development in the US.

Solar project at Fort Hunter Liggett (cropped) courtesy of USACE HQ.
Solar project at Fort Hunter Liggett (cropped) courtesy of USACE HQ.
Military Renewable Energy Surging Up

According to Pew’s Power Surge, the number of energy conservation projects at US military installations more than doubled recently, from 630 in 2010 to 1,339 in 2012 (fiscal years, btw). In that period renewable energy projects went up from 454 to 700.

Power Surge also estimates that there were 384 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity at Department of Defense facilities by mid-2013. That number is set to shoot up to 2.1 gigawatts within five years, by 2018.

All this activity puts the Department of Defense on track to meet its goal of installing three gigawatts of renewable energy at its facilities by 2025.

More Fight – Less Fuel

Okay, so it’s all nice that the Department of Defense wants more renewable energy, but saving the planet is not the driving force behind the push for fossil fuel independency.

DoD has been quite vocal about the urgency of transitioning the US off petroleum (as we’ve covered here and here for example) and adopting more lean, flexible energy sources for combat (here and here for example).

Perhaps lesser known is the imperative to improve the security of domestic and overseas military facilities by enabling them to source renewable energy on site or hyper-locally, and unplug from the grid, which here in the US is still heavily dependent on coal and natural gas.

Here is how Pew sums it up in Power Surge:

… To meet essential power requirements, defense leaders have initiated far-reaching steps to harness advanced technologies capable of conserving energy, enabling on-site production from renewable sources, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

That effort began in earnest in 2008, when the department convened a prestigious task force, formed by the Defense Science Board, to explore the key energy challenges facing the military in the 21st century. The panel’s report, “More Fight–Less Fuel,” called on the U.S. military to address two major challenges: the significant and growing demand for fuel in combat operations, and the vulnerability associated with almost complete reliance by military installations on the nation’s aging and vulnerable commercial power grid.

Check out that last phrase in particular because it nails down something that’s been bothering us for a while.

Along with the aforementioned obstruction of renewable energy development by certain members of Congress (here and here for example), you also have many of those same legislators pushing for privatization and refusing to fund important infrastructure projects.

So there you have the perfect storm: for all the billions spent on national defense, it all hangs on the fragile platform of an “aging and vulnerable” private energy infrastructure.

Ironically, it’s that same privatization/ant-infrastructure push that has forced DoD to push back with an agile end-run around Republican (there, we said it) attempts to block renewable energy development.

Let’s also note for the record that DoD has a huge hand in funding renewable energy/energy conservation R&D projects that apply to the civilian sector as well as national defense, with the Energy Department’s newly announced $50 million push for next-generation vehicles just the tip of the iceberg.

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The U.S. Department of Defense defines installation energy security as the ability to assure access to reliable sources of energy and deliver that power to meet operational needs on its bases in the United States and abroad. The U.S. military needs safe, secure, reliable, and affordable energy to operate facilities on an uninterrupted basis. To meet essential power requirements, defense leaders have initiated far-reaching steps to harness advanced technologies capable of conserving energy, enabling on-site production from renewable sources, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

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That effort began in earnest in 2008, when the department convened a prestigious task force, formed by the Defense Science Board, to explore the key energy challenges facing the military in the 21st century. The panel’s report, “More Fight–Less Fuel,” called on the U.S. military to address two major challenges: the significant and growing demand for fuel in combat operations, and the vulnerability associated with almost complete reliance by military installations on the nation’s aging and vulnerable commercial power grid.1

See more at: http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/reports/power-surge-energy-security-and-the-department-of-defense-85899532987#sthash.ybam9ccF.dpuf

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This article, 2.1 Gigawatts Of Renewable Energy For US Military, On Track For 3, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

 

Tina CaseyTina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.