The military historically has been at the forefront of developing new power sources, and now the U.S. military is at the tip of the spear for clean energy, too, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
From steam-powered warships to nuclear-powered submarines, the latest energy technologies have played important roles in past armed forces.
The Department of Defense is using the latest technologies and leveraging private-sector capabilities to save money and become more efficient and less reliant on the nation's aging commercial power grid, according to Pew's new report "Power Surge.''
In North Carolina, Camp Lejeune is recognized as a national leader in solar power and heating. It has installed tens of thousands of photovoltaic panels on guardhouses, barracks and family housing.
Fort Bragg, the Army's largest installation in terms of population and building square feet, has embarked on its own energy efficiency effort, officials said.
They include a 5 megawatt combined heat and power plant that serves the 82nd Airborne Division and increased efforts to improve efficiency and cut costs.
Fort Bragg also uses solar panels, although they were not mentioned in the report. A 235-kilowatt system can be found outside the Warrior Transition Complex.
Other buildings on Fort Bragg have embraced ground source heat pumps, or systems that use the earth's temperature to heat and cool buildings.
According to a news release, Fort Bragg also has used Energy Savings Performance Contracts, or ESPCs, which allow improvements to be built without up-front costs to the military, streamline funding and save taxpayer dollars while leveraging private sector experience.
Fort Bragg has used ESPCs since 1997 to address efficiency and capital improvements that include better lighting and controls and the modernization of an energy plant, according to retired Col. Gregory Bean, Fort Bragg's director of public works.
"Fort Bragg has financed over $100 million in improvements with annual savings exceeding $13 million," Bean said. "Through performance contracts and other mechanisms, we are leveraging public and private expertise toward the Army's Net Zero energy goals."
Fort Bragg also has increased efforts to educate soldiers, civilians and their families on energy efficiency.
During peak energy use periods, for example, Fort Bragg has started notifying residents of ways to cut costs.
"We urge that you turn off all 'non-essential' or unnecessary electrical items such as lights and appliances not needed," Fort Bragg officials posted on the post's social media accounts. "Though it is good to conserve energy at all times, it is even more important to conserve during this peak energy use period."
According to "Power Surge," the use of clean energy technologies is accelerating across U.S. military installations.
The number of energy saving and efficiency projects more than doubled from 2010 to 2012, from 630 to 1,339, the report said. Renewable energy projects increased from 454 to 700 during the same period.
"The military's clean energy installation initiatives are gathering momentum, enhancing base energy security," said Phyllis Cuttino, who directs Pew's project on national security, energy and climate. "These improvements are possible even as the Pentagon's budget is shrinking because the armed services are harnessing private-sector expertise and resources. This is a win-win-win proposition: The military gets better energy infrastructure, taxpayer dollars are saved, and the clean energy industry is finding new market opportunities."
Each year, the U.S. military spends $4billion on energy bills, "Power Surge" said.
To lower costs, each of the four service branches has instituted near- and long-term policies for clean energy, including third-part financing where private developers assume responsibility for funding and maintaining projects, the report said.
An estimated 80 percent of future Defense Department renewable energy projects will be financed through these power purchase agreements, the report said. North Carolina state law currently do not allow these agreements.
Clean energy efforts have been spurred by three drivers, according to the report: the need to assure that missions can be completed, the need to save money as the nation's defense budget is slimmed, and compliance with laws and regulations.
Pew partnered with Navigant Research for the report and found that the Department of Defense had 384 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity in mid-2013.
"By the end of 2018, it is estimated that renewable energy capacity on bases could increase more than fivefold, to 2.1 gigawatts, enabling the military to meet its goal for deployment of 3 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025," the report said. "During this time, solar photovoltaic and biomass are forecast to account for the majority of new, renewable energy installed capacity."
If the goal of 3 gigawatts is met, it would be enough to power 750,000 homes, the report said.