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September 29, 2011 – Vol.16 No.28

FOR A GREENER ECONOMY, SUPPORT THE ARMED SERVICES.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

The U.S. Navy operates almost 300 ships. Its fleet of aircraft is more than 3700. The U.S. Air Force has in its inventory more than 5500 aircraft. The U.S. Army is best known for its vehicles (tanks and things; it has more than 400,000 of those.) but it also has more than 5000 aircraft and about 50 ships. I’ll leave out the Marines in this summary since you’re probably starting the get the picture: The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) operates lots and lots of vehicles in its global operations. Lots and lots of vehicles means lots and lots of fuel. And its vehicles aren’t its only energy consumers: There’s all those military bases out there with all those buildings: more than 500 installations with more than 500,000 buildings that need heat, air conditioning, hot water and lighting. Altogether DoD spends $15 - 20 billion each year on energy, $11 billion of that on petroleum fuels.

DoD is one of the largest energy consumers in the world.

When the price of oil climbs so does it’s fuel tab, which of course taxpayers work hard to pay. With its energy bill climbing it’s no wonder the military is embracing renewable and energy efficiency in a big way. According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. "From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America's Armed Forces" DoD clean energy investments increased 300 percent between 2006 and 2009, from $400 million to $1.2 billion, and are projected to eclipse $10 billion annually by 2030.

In the report’s words Pew has documented how DoD is helping to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in three key areas:

Vehicle Efficiency: Liquid petroleum fuels account for approximately three-quarters ($11 billion) of DoD's $15 billion annual energy bill. DoD spending to harness clean energy technologies for air, land and sea vehicles is projected to grow to $2.25 billion annually by 2015. To achieve its goal of increasing efficiency and reducing fuel consumption on ships by 15 percent between 2010 and 2020, the Navy is using hybrid electric technologies, improving hull coatings and using more efficient materials. A hybrid electric drive system will be tested on the USS Truxtun, a guided-missile destroyer, and is expected to save 8,500 barrels of fuel annually. Recent operational improvements that enhance efficiency will save the department $500 million this fiscal year alone.

Advanced Biofuels: DoD has set ambitious goals and is taking concrete steps to utilize advanced biofuels. The Air Force intends to use biofuels for 50 percent of its domestic aviation needs by 2016. The Navy plans to demonstrate a "Great Green Fleet" and, along with the Marines, plans to use alternative energy sources to meet 50 percent of its energy requirements across operational platforms by 2020. To reach these goals, DoD has accelerated research on advanced biofuels, successfully testing and certifying them for use in existing fighter jets and ships.

Energy efficiency and renewables at bases: With more than 500,000 buildings and structures at 500 major installations around the world, DoD manages three times the square footage operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Since 1985, DoD has reduced its facility energy consumption by more than 30 percent. By insulating 9 million square feet of base structures in Iraq and Afghanistan, energy consumption has been reduced by 77,000 gallons a day. Another initiative is the Army's "net zero" program, which aims to have each of six installations produce as much as they consume in energy, water or waste by 2020, and two other installations, Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Carson in Colorado, will become net zero in all three areas.

While many might like to see the military and its budget shrink, there is some good from its green energy spending: The more money it spends on clean and renewable energy the more it helps that industry which, in turn, reduces the cost of green energy in the civilian sector.

DoD spending on clean, renewable and efficient energy also spurs green energy innovation. Firms often look for ways their product can benefit the military, but the real market goal is with us civilians.

A report from the Civil Society Institute “Department of Defense: Renewable Energy & Tech Transfer” says that “The DoD is in a unique position to have the breadth and depth necessary to acquire emerging technologies from the civilian sector, further research and development and utilize them in real world settings. Through this process DoD channels help establish an economy of scale robust enough that once technology transfers back into the civilian sector and commercialization takes root the starting price point for civilian purchases is approachable. Presently, the DoD is undergoing this process with renewable energy technologies, in both domestic and overseas operations and the benefits to the civilian sector are forthcoming.”

The Civil Society Institute notes some technologies in the research and development pipeline that would benefit DoD first, the rest of us later:

--- The ReGenerator is a multi-fuel capable generator that can generate up to 1,200W of integrated Solar, 2,400W of external solar and 1,200W of wind along with managing fossil fuel generators. It can also store an additional 25.9 kWh in AGM batteries that can support a charge from 120 or 240 VAC generator or grid connection. The integrated solar panels are adapted to harsh climatic conditions and have been field-tested.

--- Another emerging technology is the Oshkosh HEMTT-A3 that is a tactical hybrid truck that utilizes electricity generated from on-board diesel-electric generators to power each of the four axles. Functionality is not lost either – it is capable of hauling 13 tons of cargo while cruising at 65 miles per hour.

--- Perhaps most intriguing is the Arroyo 500 -- is an air to water generator where moisture is captured from the air and concentrated by a high-temperature desiccant wheel, collected and purified into potable water.

The military has a long history innovation for the sake of national defense that later found use elsewhere in the economy. America’s first commercial jetliner, the Boeing 707, was codeveloped in the 1950’s for both the military (as a tanker for air-to-air refueling) and civilian use (as a passenger aircraft). ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, which later became the Internet, was developed as a communications tool that would function in case of nuclear attack. The Global Positioning System (GPS), with its satellites in orbit around the planet, was developed as a navigation tool for the armed services, but its civilian applications, like finding your way to old Aunt Betty’s house, were recognized early on thus was codeveloped for both the military and civilian worlds.

Currently Congress is, once again, battling over the budget including cuts to the military. If they indeed cut, they need to do it carefully and not sever the flow of innovation that helps both the Department of Defense and the country as a whole.

Links:

Pew Charitable Trusts. "From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America's Armed Forces"
http://www.PewTrusts.org/EnergySecurity

Civil Society Institute “Department of Defense: Renewable Energy & Tech Transfer” http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org/media/082911release.cfm

 

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