The U.S. military is increasingly recognizing the need for smarter energy policy. The U.S government as a whole set a goal in 2007 to use 30% less energy than the 2003 baseline by 2015. Given that a substantial portion of the energy used by the government goes to feed military operations, it stands to reason that the military must contribute a substantial portion of that 30% reduction.
For the Army, energy efficiency can be a matter of life or death. For a very real example, consider the case of the foam insulation program initiated in Iraq and carried over to operations in Afghanistan.
By using something called closed-cell spray polyurethane foam to insulate temporary structures such as tents, the Army has realized dramatic reductions in the amount of fuel needed to cool these structures.
According to Brig. Gen. Steve Anderson, director of operations and readiness at the Department of the Army Headquarters logistics office:
“Every gallon of fuel saved at installations and forward operating bases in theater means a lower fuel usage rate, thus resupplies don’t need to happen as often. Less resupply needs means fewer trucks on the road transporting the fuel, and fewer drivers risking their lives on those dangerous roads.”
The foam insulation technique was used on the gym at Camp Victory in Iraq. Prior to the application of a 2 inch thick coat of insulating foam to the large tent, it required 8 large A/C units running continuously to maintain the facility at an uncomfortable 92 degrees. After foaming, the tent the tent was maintained at 70 degrees with only 2 A/C units running.
By applying this technique to all structures expected to be in place for extended periods of time, the Army was able to save a remarkable $3.6 million per day in fuel cost and, more importantly, save lives.
Aside from energy efficiency efforts, the military has also made a commitment to renewable energy. In 2012 the secretary of defense and the secretary of the interior signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” intended to formalize the cooperation of the military and the domestic agencies in expanding the use of publicly owned military land for use in renewable energy programs.
The move opens up some 16 million acres of land for use in renewable energy projects such a solar, wind and geothermal. The military will make the lands available to private energy firms and buy back the electricity generated from the projects.
From the military’s perspective the push into renewable energy creates a degree of energy security. Most domestic military bases rely on the local electricity grid as their primary source of power.
Having their own readily available portfolio of energy reduces their dependency on civilian infrastructure for electricity and could allow them to carry on vital base operations for an extended period of time independent of the main grid.
The military aims to create microgrids for its bases that allow them to be self-sufficient. A microgrid would allow the base to run on its own power only drawing electricity from the local civilian grid occasionally and even allow it to pump power out into the local grid under certain circumstances.
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