April 17, 2013

Energy and Water Security Priorities Move Ahead at U.S. Military Installations

On April 5, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that the largest renewable energy project in U.S. military history is expected to begin soon at Fort Bliss, Texas.  Once operational, the project will contribute to Fort Bliss’ strategic objective of achieving energy self-sufficiency and the Army’s broader goal of using 25 percent renewable energy by 2015.

The Fort Bliss project has received the green light from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. El Paso Electric will construct the 20 megawatt solar farm, which will power all of the division headquarters and the eastern sector of the base.

The solar farm, to be completed in 2015, is just one part of the post's sweeping plans to reduce its energy consumption and dependence on nonrenewable energy. Fort Bliss already hosts a 1.4-megawatt solar array, the Army's second-largest, and has installed 13.4-megawatts of rooftop solar on post housing.

Fort Bliss officials continue to pursue wind and geothermal initiatives and ambitious conservation measures as part of the Army’s NetZero program. Fort Bliss, along with Fort Carson in Colorado, are pilot sites in the program. These installations are integrated net zero, meaning they are net zero energy, net zero water and net zero waste. It is expected that the U.S. Army will publish preliminary results of its NetZero program in the first half of 2013.

In related NetZero projects, the Army is examining the water (and energy) usage throughout its supply chain. The Army Environmental Policy Institute is currently looking to quantify how much water is needed to produce the Army’s goods and services, as well as identify additional sustainability issues and policy.

According to Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, the efforts to reduce energy, water and waste on military installations are “operationally necessary, financially prudent, and critical to our mission.” The pilot programs at Fort Bliss and Fort Carson should be able to reveal the Army’s capacity to scale up their NetZero objectives to installations across the world. 

Photo: U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) learn to use solar panels and generators during a training rotation at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany. Courtesy SPC Ashley Keasler and the U.S. Army. 

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