Army goes green, hopes to make bases more energy independent

Melissa Quinn Contributor
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In four months the Army will begin taking acquisition action on four large solar installations in hopes of making bases more energy independent, Federal News Radio reports.

“Utility-scale” renewable power facilities will be built on spare land throughout the U.S., and the Army will begin making acquisition decisions for sites at Fort Detrick, Md., Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Irwin, Calif., and US Army Garrison – Hawaii.

The Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF) was formed nine months ago to start assessing options for renewable energy projects. The project comes on the heels of the proposed $400 billion in defense cuts, and members of the task force hope the acquisitions will have economic benefits.

“[The] cost of energy is important to us,” said Kathy Ahsing, the task force’s director of planning and development. “Economics will matter as we look at the opportunities we pursue in the future.”

Both the Army and the Air Force committed to generating a gigawatt of renewable energy on their respective bases by 2025, and these four acquisition decisions will move the Army 10 percent closer toward its goal, said John Lushetwhy, executive director of the EITF.

“All of these projects are being specified to provide a base level of energy security to these installations, a first step toward full energy security,” he said. “They will have the potential to increase their performance with additional renewables, the addition of microgrids, and energy storage and other clean energy technologies as they mature and become cost effective.”

The energy produced by the solar plants will be bought by the Army and used on local bases, with the exception of the Army Garrison. There, the solar plant will be built under a lease agreement with the local utility company and directed to the civilian power grid. However, in the event of an emergency, the Army will be able to take over the energy produced.

The initial four projects will set up solar photovoltaic systems, energy generation equipment that converts sunlight directly into electrical power. In the future, the Army hopes to add 100 megawatts of renewable energy to each base each year.

In years to come, the Army is looking to spend $7 billion under a contract to be awarded to multiple firms. Under that contract, companies would be responsible for building and operating renewable power plants on government land using private sector funding. The Army would then buy the energy that the plants created.

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