Army Moving on Renewable Energy for Bases

Contributor:  John M. Doyle
Posted:  08/28/2012  12:00:00 AM EDT
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When officials broke ground on a $9.6 million solar power, renewable energy project at Utah's Tooele Army Depot on Aug. 17, one of the VIPs on hand was the top commander of all the armed services, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Read on...

“This is a glimpse of the future,” Dempsey said during the ceremony at the 15-acre site west of Salt Lake City, which is one of five Defense Department ammunition storage and distribution sites. “Public and private partnerships, industry, academia and government must work together. The days when we, the U.S. military, could figure it out ourselves are long gone,” Dempsey added.
The Tooele project will house 430 solar collection dishes eventually producing 30 percent of the depot's electricity, according to the Army.
The energy-saving project is part of a wider push to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and reliance on an aging and sometimes undependable electric grid. The Obama administration set a goal in April for the Army, Navy and Air Force to develop systems that will create three gigawatts – three billion watts – of renewable energy at their installations by 2025. The Defense Department is the nation's largest user of petroleum-based energy although it only accounts for less than 1 percent of domestic energy use, Sharon Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs told an Energy Department hosted bio-energy conference in July.
The services consumed about five billion gallons of petroleum in 2010, costing $13.2 billion, a 255 percent increase over 1997 prices, according to the Defense Department's 2011 Operational Energy Strategy. Most of the services energy use, about 75 percent, goes to operational needs such as training, sustaining and transporting equipment and weapons.
The Defense Department estimates that for every $1 increase in the cost of a barrel of oil, it incurs an additional $130 million in fuel costs.
The president's plan calls for the services to explore solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy sources to meet the three gigawatt goal, which would be enough energy to power 750,000 homes, said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, who joined Dempsey at the Tooele groundbreaking.
In addition to the project at Tooele, the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada is exploring geothermal energy as a renewable source. Fort Campbell, KY is managing electrical demand during peak hours by prioritizing usage and load shifting. Fort Bliss, TX has begun work on a 1.4 megawatt solar field.
Innovations from Detroit
The Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) has opened a 30,000-square foot collection of labs at the Detroit Arsenal, in Warrnen, MI to develop new energy technologies for the next generation of combat vehicles. The Ground Systems Power and Energy Lab will offer a range of test and validation capabilities for emerging power, energy and mobility technologies at a single facility.
To road test some of the energy technologies and systems coming out of the Detroit lab, the Army plans a Green Warrior Convoy of vehicles in 2013 that will demonstrate fuel cells, hybrid systems, battery technologies and alternative fuels. Plans call for the convoy to stop at military bases, schools and universities to encourage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education as well as showcasing energy improvement technology.
The Army's Hammack, who will be a speaker at the IDGA Future Power Summit in Washington Oct. 10-12, said in an IDGA podcast earlier this year that it's estimated it will take a $7 billion investment for the Army to reach its goal of generating one gigawatt of renewable energy. But that money will not come from taxpayer dollars, she said. Instead the Army will be looking for partnerships with the private sector.

John M. Doyle is a Washington-based defense and homeland security writer. A former congressional editor at Aviation Week & Space Technology, he has since written about military and homeland  security issues for Defense Technology International, Overhaul & Maintenance, Seapower, Smithsonian Air & Space and Unmanned Systems. For almost 20 years he was an editor and reporter with the Associated Press covering law enforcement, legal affairs, business and politics in the Midwest, New York and Washington. He now blogs about unconventional warfare and where it crosses paths with terrorism, technology, energy, international development and disaster relief at He can be reached at
Goal (the White House plan)
Energy Department hosted bio-energy conference
Ground Systems Power and Energy Lab
IDGA Future Power Summit
IDGA Podcast
John M. Doyle Contributor:   John M. Doyle

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