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Military Renewables: Why More Than Money is at Stake

In 2011, the U.S. Army spent five billion dollars on renewable energies. But why does the Army care so much about renewable energy? The answer is simple: lives and public funds are at stake.

In wartime, soldiers risk their lives protecting the convoys that deliver fossil fuels to the frontlines. The Army Environment Policy Institute found that approximately one U.S. soldier is killed for every 24 fuel resupply convoys sent to the frontline. More specifically, CNN Money reported that “one out of every eight U.S. Army casualties in Iraq was the result of protecting fuel convoys.” The use of renewable energy sources, on the other hand, would lighten the load for these convoys, causing the convoys to both get better mileage and decrease the total number of convoys. The AEPI study goes on to claim that “a 10% reduction in fuel consumption over a five-year period could lead to a reduction of 35 fuel-related resupply casualties over the same period.” This is obviously a desired outcome.

Another astounding statistic is that it currently takes seven gallons of fuel just to transport one gallon to U.S. forces through supply lines. The worst part is that a majority of this fuel is used to power the U.S. forward bases themselves. The use of renewable energy sources at these bases would decrease the number of convoys needed to transport energy, which would ultimately be much less expensive for the U.S. government.

Once you see these numbers, it is easy to see why the U.S. Department of Defense is investing $3 billion into renewable energy in 2013. They are also opening up 16 million acres of its land for renewable energy development. To incorporate renewables on the front line, the DoD is also investing heavily in microgrids to establish forward operating bases that are self-sustaining and smart in the distribution of power. By using renewables and microgrids, the DoD plans to reduce the human and financial costs of supplying fossil fuels to the U.S. military. The DoD also hopes to gain a more free-moving fighting force as a result of not having to tie so many soldiers to the convoys.

It took the DoD getting involved in projects like computers, the internet, and cellular networks for them to really take off. I’m excited to see how the DoD investment in renewables and microgrids pushes these industries into a new era. How do you think the DoD’s investments will pan out? Will this have a big impact on the renewable energy industry and microgrids?

This blog was originally published on S&C's Blog and was republished with permission.

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Gary Wetzel is the Director of Commercial & Industrial Business Development for S&C Electric Company. He has over 35 years of experience in the electrical industry working with all markets including projects for utilities, major industrial, govern...

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