The U.S. military is increasingly pursuing opportunities in renewable energy systems as a way to reduce energy costs, shorten supply lines, and improve force protection, according to a report by Defense Industry Daily.
According to the report, beginning in 2006, U.S. commanders began requesting renewable energy systems in Iraq. In July of that year, Maj. Gen. Zilmer 2006 reportedly issued an MNF-W priority 1 request calling for 183 renewable energy systems to be deployed in Iraq. Gen. Zilmer cited the vulnerabilities of U.S. supply convoys, many of which were being used to transport fuel.
Although the U.S. has traditionally valued fuel costs using wholesale prices, the actual cost of transporting fuel to frontline troops, including transportation and security costs, can run closer to $100 a gallon, according to former CIA director James Woolsey. The Pentagon is currently working on a new valuation metric for fuel costs that will take into account transportation and security costs, a move that is likely to bring the cost of battlefield deployment of renewable energy systems much closer to parity with traditional fuel sources, according to the report.
Meanwhile, from 2004 – 2009, U.S. fuel use in Iraq increased from 50m gallons to 500m gallons. Fuel represents 70 percent of total materiel by weight delivered to forward operating troops, according to a quote attributed to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, ranking Republican member of the House Armed Services Seapower & Expeditionary Forces subcommittee.
Reducing the need for fuel convoys would also improve force protection, reducing the need to expose troops to IED attacks and ambushes.
Despite this, Gen. Zilmer’s 2006 request was declined. But the Pentagon is continuing to invest in research into renewable energy systems for the battlefield. One such system, the Mobile Power System, is built by SkyBuilt, a company that has received funding from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm. The system reportedly delivers 5kW, and is currently seeing limited deployment with the U.S. Army, according to the report.
The Army has also recently announced it will be holding its first Renewable Energy Rodeo and Symposium June 8-9 at Fort Bliss, TX.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is taking steps to better measure its own fuel consumption in an effort to reduce energy costs by 10 percent in five years.