Contributed by Megan Ray Nichols
It’s no secret that the US military takes up a huge chunk of the federal budget. Its spending results in arguably the most technologically advanced military on the planet.
In this vein, the military has begun investigating ways to make its operations more sustainable and shrink its massive carbon footprint. No other green energy efforts have had this magnitude of resources before.
Why would the military want to invest in renewable energy
One way to save a ton and help cut down the fuel emissions is—you guessed it—through sustainable energy resources. The military brass has been toying with this idea for some time, and are now looking to implement sustainable energy initiatives.
Beyond saving tons of money for the military, the switch to green energy can set a fitting example for other agencies. The military has the chance to efficiently trailblaze a path to total sustainability. When it does, it will go a long way to improve the world’s carbon emissions, especially as other American and allied institutions follow its lead. Some significant considerations determine how quickly and how much it can accomplish.
Quality and Ruggedness
The military has learned the hard way that investing in new technologies can backfire without adequate field testing. It absolutely requires technology that functions in a multitude of different environments, from jungle to desert to tundra.
In some cases, this requirement poses potential problems for implementing renewable energy. However, the military is looking for safer energy sources for our troops in combat. For example, according to an article in Scientific American, the military created the Expeditionary Energy Office in 2009, and since then, renewable energy systems have saved lives at the individual or unit level by reducing the number of refueling trips in battlefields.
Incorporating energy efficient systems abroad isn’t the military’s only effort to become more sustainable. A recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts touts microgrids as “triple plays” because they incorporate renewables, enhance energy security. and reduce costs. By installing these microgrids on bases, the military could phase out its least reliable diesel generators.
Last, it plans to produce 25% of its energy via renewables by 2025. The testing process has already come a long way. Widespread implementation on bases at home and abroad could happen soon.
The transition to sustainable energy opens up massive new fields experimental technologies. The military will need specialists and engineers to help test and maintain it all.
This fantastic opportunity will create thousands of new jobs within the military and its civilian partners. All the scientists, engineers, and green energy specialists will produce a wealth of information and statistics on green energy, advancing the field itself far beyond where it is now. Beyond helping the military become green, this effort will see hundreds of military veterans looking for civilian jobs in green energy, pushing the field even further ahead.
The military has already begun to move toward a greener future. It has already started operations at several green energy facilities around the US and awarded more than $60 million in contracts in the past year.
This number may seem like a drop in the bucket considering the size of the military budget, but it’s a huge step away from traditional reliance on fossil fuel. Green energy installations will require a significant infusion of cash to become system-wide, but the US military certainly has an adequate budget. It has long been criticized for its cautious bureaucracy and spending inefficiencies, making its significant and swift progress towards sustainability astonishing.
Beyond the hard cash, military officials have begun a concerted effort to convince troops and Congress of the benefits of sustainable energy. Potential contractors — including Advanced Energy Economy, a network of businesses advocating renewable energy — — distributed a comprehensive graphic to both the army and the private sector showcasing the benefits of green energy over traditional fuels. This campaign to sway the hearts and minds of the military may be useful, but only time will tell.
Editor’s note: Military sustainability involves more than renewable energy. Consider its partnership with The Nature Conservancy for another aspect of its commitment.
Megan Ray Nichols writes the blog Schooled by Science
Photos public domain from the US Air Force