America is gradually becoming a leader as energy innovator, by replacing thousands of acres previously having military installation of renewable technology. This is a step towards achieving targets.
Pentagon is going for a long-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gases by deploying renewable sources of energy. The solar installation in California’s Mojave Desert and minor initiative such as a 30 MW geothermal plant at Fallon Naval Air Station in Nevada are only a few calls.
Matthew Kahn, environmental economist at the University of California, considered that the messages projected by the military for green businesses are certainly conveying a comprehensible signal. It doesn’t mean that the military mission is changing but rather the demand for renewable technology and products are at a rise.
Pentagon’s move towards greener sources of energy is based on two motives. First to reduce cost involved in operating and secondly to overcome dangers of energy shortage.
These motives have boarded Pentagon on major green projects. First, the installation of a solar plant at Fort Irwin will generate 500-MW of electricity. Another, $1.5 billion project has been launched in alliance with Acciona Solar Power and Clark Energy Group. According to the Army, the plant is expected to operate at full capacity by year 2020.
The Army’s step is significantly bigger than that of Air Force, but the trend is in accord. The Air Force did recently, make it public that they are installing 80, 000 solar panels. This project will provide 6MW of electricity in southern Arizona’s Davis Monthan Air Force Base. Finance will be supported by Tucson Electric Power, according to spokesman, Joe Salkowski.
Ideal Locations for Renewable Energy
There are already public land sites that have been identified as suitable for renewable energy projects. Past ventures such as in California’s Mojave Desert have both wind and solar projects which have been met with opposition due to their possible influence on wildlife habitat. Environmentalists encourage alternative sources of energy but also consider that land with low ecological value should be used.
Eventually, military bases are perfectly suited for alternative energy solution. Moreover, according to Jerry Hansen, Army’s senior energy executive, the army has above 12 millions of acres of land.
Moreover, Pentagon is cautious about development of alternative sources of energy for the army as it might turn into a revenue business. For instance, 500-MW of solar energy that is to be generated from Fort Irwin is expected to leave 465 MW available for sales, as the army requires only 35 MW.
Pentagon is setting them as an icon in the green track. Just imagine how effective desert land could be used. An example could be Yucca Flats at Nellis Air Force Base, which is just north-east to Las Vegas.
Air Force, considered that their wise investment in solar energy will reduce electric cost by a million dollar and even limit CO2 emission by 24 thousand tons per years. This would relatively represent removing 4,000 vehicles from the road and this land was previously idle.
Moreover, in 2008 a 2-MW of solar power was installed in the Army’s Fort Carson in southeast Colorado. It supplies 2.3 of the demand of energy by the fort, equivalent to the amount used by 540 homes. The fort has a target of being fully reliant on alternative sources of energy by year 2027, which represents an increase in investment in renewable energy initiatives.
There are great supports behind initiatives launched by Pentagon. The fact that two Air Force bases are already operating fully by using renewable energy (Dyess Air Force Base in Texas and Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington) is burnishing a positive image for Pentagon.
In the Army’s quest of going green, they are forming various coalitions. This is not only giving further hopes and promises but also realizations whereby desert and contaminated sites can be used wisely.
Threats of Renewable sources of energy to Pentagon
Not all renewable sources of energy might be suitable. For instance, wind turbine technology causes interferences to various military tools like radars. This does eventually make wind power projects less attractive. There are until now only two wind power projects that have been conducted for the Air Force one of 2.4 MW and 1.3 MW at Ascension Island and Wyoming, respectively.
Military land can also have impacts on wildlife and landscape. For example, in Fort Irwin the desert tortoises are threatened, recently as much as 90 tortoises deceased due to military training activities.
The key to sustainable renewable sources of energy requires immense planning. This means that the most appropriate sites must be chosen. This includes areas where the effect on environment is less irrespective of whether being military land or not.