Friday, August 12, 2011

The Green Army

When reading this story, keep in mind that, according to Wiki, DOD spending for FY2010 is $689B. For one year. This is $7.1B spread out over ten years. Gives you a little perspective on the numbers. Still, it's nice to see the federal government move in this direction since they are consuming so much power. It will save us money in the long run, and create domestic jobs at the same time.

The U.S. Army has high hopes of using renewable energy to fulfill a quarter of its energy needs by 2025. But it can't get there without adding large-scale renewable energy projects to its arsenal, so the Army has launched a special task force to enlist the private sector for the challenge.

The Energy Initiatives Office (EIO) Task Force will be operational by Sept. 15 to engage the private sector in identifying and investing in big green power projects that may be built on the Army's vast land holdings.

"Through that office we intend to work very hard with the private sector," said Army Secretary John M. McHugh during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "It will serve as a one-stop shop to allow the private sector to come and find opportunities for partnership in a variety of renewable energy and alternative energy programs."

And the project has a budget only the military could procure: McHugh said that in order to meet its energy security measures, the Army expects to invest $7.1 billion in the task force in the next 10 years.

The federal government is the nation's largest energy consumer, accounting for about 1.5 percent of use. And the Department of Defense is the biggest driver behind that energy consumption, responsible for about 80 percent.

Better to spend Department of Defense money on renewable energy projects rather than fighter jets ($77B for 187 planes) we aren't going to use, yes? But first of all, we had to get the Army out of the way of the Army, and it appears that they have finally figured out how to do that.

The DOD has streamlined procedures on approval for projects across the country that might have interfered with military operations - which, from the list, appeared to be every big and small renewable energy project in nearly every state, public or private, didn't matter. For example, Michigan's biggest wind farm at Breckenridge showed up on that list, as well as one - one - turbine that will be installed right outside Grand Rapids.

Solar farms and wind turbines produce electromagnetic fields that can skew electronic sensing devices, and turbines in particular are the biggest problem, as they really mess with radar equipment. That made the DOD rather tentative (to be kind) on approving projects. In July, they cut through the red tape, and cleared the way for hundreds of projects to move forward. It's about time.

A Defense Department clearinghouse for renewable energy projects has approved 229 of 249 projects proposed in 35 states and Puerto Rico, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said last week.

“These projects represent 10 gigawatts of renewable energy generation capacity in wind energy alone,” Lynn said at an Army and Air Force energy forum.

“Our action removes a major stumbling block for developers who are trying to attract financing, showing the department’s commitment to supporting the president’s vision for energy … without compromising our national security,” the deputy secretary said.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted during a speech at the same forum that the Defense Department has played a crucial role in developing technologies, including the GPS system, the Internet and semiconductor electronics.

“As an early investor and adopter, [DOD] has actually advanced those technologies that have become the core wealth generators … of today,” he said.

Chu likened the development of renewable energy technology to a second industrial revolution. “We still need the energy and the power to propel our military, our economy, our world -- but we need to do it in a cleaner way,” he said.

Exactly. What the military discovers with these projects will work its way into everyday civilian life - think space exploration and all that has brought us - and ultimately save a bundle of money as well as create more jobs. It's win - win. Getting to 25% renewables in the DOD is a substantial savings in energy costs. Can we put that figure - whatever it is - down as budget cuts?

Find a way and make it work, Super Congress.