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Renewable Energy: How the Military Will Help America Become Energy Independent

I thought years ago I would have been blogging about new sustainable achievements and how the military would help America become energy independent, more sustainable, but as I have learned there is more to becoming “green” than we know. The Department of Defense (DOD) is using more renewable sources of energy ever than before. The United States military has the best means of advancing renewable energy. According to Pew Charitable Trusts, the DOD already committed to supplying 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. The Department of Defense policy shifts toward using more clean energy in order to increase national security and save money, which could have far-reaching effects. Here is an interesting look at some of the other ways our future sustainability might end up being owed to the military.

The Department of Defense and its military branches have been national leaders in building, modifying, and the achievement of energy-efficient measures and renewable technologies. Energy independence and national security are interrelated world issues and the United States and its dependence on foreign sources of energy composes a serious threat militarily, socially and economically. More than a decade ago, the Department of the Army proposed a new vision of sustainability for the military.

The military still has a presence in Afghanistan and it isn’t a secret that by reducing the need for petroleum-based fuels, we can decrease the frequency of convoys on the road, thereby reducing the danger to our Soldiers, Marines and Sailors. In the last 13 years, three out of the four deployments, my husband’s tour of duty was to Iraq. In 2006, during my husband’s second tour to Iraq, one of the top U.S. military commanders (Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer) requested photovoltaic (PV) panels and other renewable energy systems. He categorized this as a top priority because the need to reduce the time fuel convoys spent on roads (where they are most vulnerable to roadside bombs and attacks). My husband was blown up several times escorting these conveys through the desert. The enormous amount of fuel needed for his unit highlighted some of the energy challenges the Department of Defense (DOD) has and is still feeling today.

In a 2010 study by the Department of Defense, the DOD realized that the agency accounts for 80% of the US Government’s energy Consumption. What it all boils down to is not all about how “green” environmentally you are but the measures of the finances and social performance in corporation over a period of time. Triple Bottom Line (3BL) was first introduced in 1994 by John Elkington. His argument was that companies should prepare three different bottom lines. One measure is profit and loss, the second measure is how socially responsible an organization has been throughout its operations and the final measure is how environmentally responsible the organization has been.

The triple bottom line or 3BL for short consists of three Ps: profit, people, and planet. It aims to measure the financial, social and environmental performance of the corporation over a period of time. Only a company that yields a 3BL is taking account of the full cost involved in doing business. In order to support the triple bottom line of Army sustainability and for the military to sustain readiness, improve quality of life, strengthen community relationships, and help reduce total costs of ownership by suggesting sound environmental investments for force transformation and installation sustainability we have to learn how it affects us personally.

I have seen firsthand the environmental challenges an installation can have such as aging infrastructure and military training exercises that were damaging to the area which threatened to compromise the mission. Fort Bragg recognized they were weak in this area and addressed these issues; Fort Bragg incorporated sustainability concepts into a comprehensive strategic planning.

Last month two renewable energy products for the military were announced one at Fort Bragg and one at Fort Bliss. As part of the army’s continuing efforts to conserve energy and find innovative ways to promote sustainability, an Army Corps of Engineers project has installed a vegetated roof top of plants on a new building at Fort Bragg. This facility will allow units to prepare and inspect vehicles and equipment for transportation by air, rail and sea. Even though the building was $13.4 million dollars, the pay off in the long run is worth the upfront cost. The largest renewable energy project in U.S. military history is slated to begin soon at Fort Bliss, Texas, a big step toward the installation's goal of generating all the energy it uses. A 20-megawatt solar farm that will power all of the division headquarters and most of the eastern sector of the installation, which is the largest solar project at any installation, will reduce its energy consumption and dependence on nonrenewable energy.

We can clearly see that the federal government is taking the military’s lead in green top roofing, with GSA’s new 1800 F project. It is only a matter of time before the housing market starts to see this type of green roofing. This green roof project stands to considerably reduce the cost of cooling the Deployment Facility. As reported by the Fayetteville Observer, the new building at Fort Bragg's cooling system works less, saving 25 percent to 50 percent in energy costs.

According to an Environmental Protection Agency report, “the surface of a vegetated rooftop can be cooler than the ambient air, whereas conventional rooftop surfaces can exceed ambient air temperatures by up to 90°F (50°C).” The plants keep the roof cooler, a big plus at Fort Bragg, which records some of the area's highest temperatures during the summer. These plants that are being planted on these buildings help to cleanse the air by drawing in carbons during the day and releasing them at night.

Both of these initiatives are a huge step in the military’s continuing dedication to sustainability and energy efficiency, more importantly, renewable energy. The federal government is following after the military one of many buildings here in Washington D.C., is utilizing the "green roof" look at U.S. General Services Administration 1800 F Project. It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing improvements with electric military fleet vehicles, and military installations becoming "net zero." With these new improvements in renewable energy this ultimately saves troops’ lives on the battlefield and decreases the U.S. reliance on foreign oil, which affects us all.

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