Obama pushes US military to go even greener

Continuing its campaign-year emphasis on a broad range of energy initiatives, the Obama administration has outlined a fresh roster of renewable-energy and energy-efficiency programs by the US military. 

The White House said the moves were intended to improve the military’s and the nation’s energy security.

The Pentagon already had a statutory goal of meeting 25 percent of its faciility energy needs with renewable energy by 2025, and in his State of the Union Address in January President Obama said the Navy would develop 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy on its installations by 2020. 

Now the White House has upped the ante, vowing to deploy 3 GW of renewable energy – comprising solar, wind, biomass and geothermal – across all the services by 2025.

“These new steps build on President Obama’s unwavering commitment to energy security for America’s warfighters, and to a sustained, comprehensive strategy to ensure a secure energy future for all Americans,” the White House said in a statement.

Perhaps anticipating a backlash from deficit hawks, the White House emphasized that these goals could be met “at no additional cost to taxpayers” by using a number of different financing tools. 

A recent example of the government’s ability to do this was the switchover from coal to woody biomass at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site.

The biomass plant was built using a federal financing device called an energy savings performance contract (ESPC), under which private companies finance, install and maintain new energy- and water-efficient equipment at federal facilities. The government pays no up-front costs and the company’s investment is repaid over time by the agency from the cost savings generated by the new equipment.

Other key green military programs touch on by the White House today included:

  • The opening of a new lab in Michigan “that will develop cutting edge energy technologies for the next generation of combat vehicles.”
  • A 2013 program called “Green Warrior Convoy” which will test and demonstrate the Army’s advanced vehicle power and technology including fuel cells, hybrid systems, battery technologies and alternative fuels. “This convoy will stop at schools, colleges, communities and military facilities along the way to show members of the military and public the importance of energy improvements,” the White House said.
  • An Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) competition, using $30 million from the Energy Department, that will “engage our country’s brightest scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs in improving the capability of energy storage devices, including batteries.”
  • A continued push on biofuels, including a goal is “to establish commercial-scale biorefineries in different regions of the U.S. producing jet and naval biofuels from diverse feedstocks via different processes.”

Pete Danko, EarthTechling