Sunday, March 06, 2011

From Green Power to Innovation

For years the U.S. military has been increasing its reliance on alternative and renewable energy sources to provide power to all spectrum, from soldiers in the field to military installations around the world. Not surprisingly, the DOD has become the “greenest” of federal agencies in terms of its size.

Already, the Air Force is one of the top purchasers of green power in the US, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Top 50 list of Green Power Partners released in January 2011. The Air Force ranks number one in the Department of Defense, number two in the federal government, and number 15 among 1,300 Green Power Partners.
As indicated in an Air Force news article, the Air Force is being recognized for its purchase and on-site production of 243.9 GWh of green power from U.S. renewable facilities built after 1997. In addition, Air Force officials purchased 250 GWh of renewable energy from facilities built before 1997 for a total renewable usage of 493.9 GWh.
“In 2015, renewable energy is expected to make up more than 10 percent of all electricity used by the Air Force. Examples of Air Force renewable energy projects include: 14.2 MW photovoltaic solar array at Nellis AFB, Nev.; one MW photovoltaic solar array at Buckley AFB, Colo.; 388 kW photovoltaic thin-film integrated membrane roof on the base exchange at Luke AFB, Ariz.; 2.3 MW landfill gas generator at Hill AFB, Utah; 3.32 MW wind generation at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; 400 kW roof photovoltaic system at Los Angeles AFB, Calif.; 660 kW photovoltaic at Fresno Air National Guard Base, Calif.; 500 kW photovoltaic at Toledo ANGB, Ohio; and a 250 kW wind generator at Tin City Long Range Radar Site, Alaska.”
The US Navy is not amongst the top 10 federal government list. US Army (Fort Lewis and Fort Carson) ranks number 6. Navy is not in Top 10 but it will surely join the list in the near future.

On 2 March 2011, the secretary of the Navy announced new steps in partnership between the DOD and the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-e) to improve national security by innovating the way the military uses energy. The plan is to develop an energy storage device that will provide with long duration storage suitable for a variety of applications, including military bases and vehicles and eventually commercial grids. 
Two joint initiatives are mentioned: The first is the development of hybrid energy storage modules to store the energy for later use. The second is a Grid Storage Study to assist in answering the question of how to make alternative energy such as solar and wind less reliant on weather conditions and therefore more consistent. (see video). Both initiatives are to be funded by a requested $25 million each from DoD and ARPA–e in the fiscal year 2012 budget. 
Via the Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology and (Grid-scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage programs, ARPA–e aims to prove the energy-storage technologies that the Navy and other armed forces need. "We want to develop storage and do that with batteries, flywheels at the cost of $100 per kilowatt-hour, [and] use it anywhere in the world, "  Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is reported as saying in a Scientific American article on 3 March 2011 (U.S. Military Links Alternative Energy Research to Lives--and Dollars—Saved).
On 2 March 2011 Sharon Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, gave a speech at Harvard University Science Center on "Energy for the War Fighter". She said that there are several initiatives already under way to release the military from the tether of fuel.

Developing more energy-saving equipment for troops in the field is one of these initiatives. “The average U.S. soldier on a 72-hour patrol carries between 10 and 20 pounds of batteries. There are seven kinds of batteries that power flashlights, GPS devices, night-vision gear, and other equipment considered essential for the modern soldier. Including spares, a soldier lugs 70 batteries, along with the devices themselves, weapons, food, water, and other necessities.” She admits that the soldiers’ battery burden is just the tip of the military’s energy problem.

She might be right. But I believe that one of the first priorities of  her office should be to release the individual soldiers from the tether of battery burden. Soldiers must come first. The first priority of her office should have been to prepare a paper documenting the DOD’s current operational energy situation and challenges. Since coming into office in July 2010 Sharon E. Burke still has not prepared such a document. Why?

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