The U.S. military is implementing several green initiatives including the use of alternative energy such as solar and wind that officials estimate could save millions, cut their heavy environmental boot-print and save lives in war zones where fuel convoys are frequent targets, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The testing ground for these green initiatives is Ft. Irwin in San Bernardino Country, which houses the Army’s training center for troops deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
When oil prices spiked last summer, the Defense Department’s energy budget rose from about $13 billion per year in 2006 and 2007 to $20 billion in 2008, consuming 4 billion gallons of jet fuel, 220 million gallons of diesel and 73 million gallons of gasoline, reports the LA Times.
As a result, reducing consumption and embracing energy alternatives became national security imperatives by defense officials. At Ft. Irwin, they are testing ways to power the desert training area — which replicates combat conditions — using wind, solar and organic waste-to-fuel technologies, reports the LA Times.
David Melton, president of Albuquerque-based Sacred Power Corp., which installed some of Ft. Irwin’s photovoltaic panels and wind turbines, told the LA Times that hearing about the military embracing the new technology is going to change people’s thoughts about using it.
The LA Times reports that the Defense Department derives 9.8 percent of its power from alternative sources and is looking to expand the use of wind, solar, thermal and nuclear energy with the help of President Obama’s economic stimulus package, which includes $120 million to improve the energy efficiency of Defense installations and $300 million for military research into alternative power.
Pushed by federal legislative mandates and the need to save money on energy costs, the U.S. Navy has reduced its overall consumption level by 12 percent in 2008 with projects centered around wind energy generation, solar photovoltaic systems, geothermal systems, and ocean thermal energy conversion. In addition, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have implemented a number of green projects in 2008 that range from reducing energy consumption to cutting water use.
Currently research is underway to improve fuel efficiency and find alternative ways to power the military’s most power-hungry equipment including aircraft, ships, and tanks. Last year, the U.S. Air Force tested an alternate fuel, using a 50/50 blend of synthetic and petroleum gases, that is proven to burn cleaner, reducing combustion-related emissions and particulates in the air without compromising performance. The goal is to have every aircraft using synthetic fuel blends by 2011.
Recycling is also part of the military’s environmental initiatives. The Navy Region Southwest (NRSW) was recently named as the top recycler of the year in San Diego.
The NRSW Fleet Environmental Program’s environmental initiatives reach far beyond recycling with programs that help conserve water, promote sustainability and reduce waste, reports the Navy Compass newspaper.
According to the article, among other initiatives, the Navy has put the following into effect:
- Work with regional departments and tenant commands to identify and implement environmental best management practices such as using Bio-Diesel, or pier pilings made from recycled plastic.
- Assist Navy commands and region departments with specific sustainability problems. Processes may include training staff to function in a more sustainable manner through waste reduction or cost avoidance.
- Work with other federal agencies on sustainable initiatives and collaborations.