Government’s Largest Energy User Moves Toward Renewable Energy Goals

The U.S. ranks second only to China as the largest consumer of energy in the world. And, in the U.S., the largest single energy user, as well as one of the largest consumers of energy in the world, is the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Not surprisingly, energy costs make up a huge part of the U.S. military budget – more than $4 billion per year.

All federal agencies, including the U.S. military, have now been directed to ensure that by 2025, at least 25 percent of their total energy consumption will be from clean, renewable energy sources. They also were directed to reduce energy use in their facilities by 2.5 percent between 2015 and 2025.

U.S. military installations are moving quickly to satisfy those sustainability goals, and the result is myriad contracting opportunities for private firms in the energy industry. Millions of dollars’ worth of contracts are being awarded to local utilities for renewable energy projects – mostly solar – on military bases. And, many are the result of public-private partnerships.

The most recent such project was celebrated with a ribbon cutting at Fort Campbell, a U.S. Army installation on the Tennessee-Kentucky border. The Fort Campbell Department of Public Works just completed phase one of a solar array project that, when completed, will produce 5 MW of solar energy, or enough to power as many as 463 homes. It also will provide more than 10 percent of the military installation’s power needs through renewable energy. The project is the result of a partnership among the U.S. Army, several government entities and a rural electric cooperative.

Housing units are also benefitting from the use of renewable energy. More than 60,000 DOD privatized housing units exist at U.S. military installations. The private companies that own the structures have been encouraged to increase the amount of solar energy generated for those homes. The result is that solar power is being provided by four private firms to more than 40 military bases throughout the country. More than 230 MW of renewable energy have been produced and close to 325 metric tons of annual carbon emissions reductions have been reported.

A 13 MW solar project is currently under construction at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Not only will the project provide energy for the base, but it will also supply power to nearby consumers in Onslow County. Solar is also big at Fort Bliss in Texas, where a recently completed project will produce 20,000 kW, or 14 percent of the energy needed to operate the military installation.

The largest investment in renewable energy by a federal entity was recently announced by the Department of the Navy. A partnership between a private-sector energy firm, the Navy and the Western Area Power Administration will result in installation of a 210 MW solar facility at Naval Air Station North Island, California. The facility, which will be installed in the Arizona desert, will be capable of generating enough electricity to power 80,000 homes in California and will benefit 14 Navy installations.

By diversifying their energy portfolios with renewable energy sources, military installations are saving millions of dollars, becoming more energy secure and significantly reducing carbon emissions. Taxpayers will appreciate the savings, citizens will benefit from cleaner air and many private sector firms will benefit from an extremely large new marketplace for renewable energy solutions.

Lead image: Veteran house. Credit: Shutterstock.

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