Domestic military installations require reliable energy sources that can power their operations 24-hours per day under all circumstances. Mission assurance, cost savings and mandated energy saving initiatives are driving the Department of Defense to deploy new energy technology with the help of innovative financing mechanisms.
The three main military branches each have a goal of deploying 1 GW of renewable energy by 2025 and they are using different strategies in different regions. “The branches have organized differently, but they are all trying reach same goal of 3 GW by 2025,” Phyllis Cuttino, Clean Energy Program Director at the PEW Charitable Trusts recently told Breaking Energy.
PEW and consulting firm Navigant Research released a report last week entitled Power Surge: How the Department of Defense Leverages Private Resources to Enhance Energy Security and Save Money on U.S. Military Bases.
“This research focuses on the energy security challenges at domestic defense installations, where 20 percent of the Department of Defense’s power consumption occurs. Recent history has underscored the continuing role that soldiers and civilians on domestic bases provide, whether it is in supporting troops operating thousands of miles away or here at home assisting emergency response and relief operations for American communities suffering from natural disasters. None of this can happen unless our military installations have a diversity of efficient power sources they need every minute of every day of the year,” Senator John W. Warner, Retired, says in the report.
The analysts find by 2018 the US military should have 2.1 GW deployed at domestic installations. “Bases have traditionally been dependent on the commercial grid and last year there were 87 outages of 8 hours or more on bases. They must have 24/7 power for mission assurance,” said Cuttino.
In a tight budgetary environment, any time you can use money more effectively you do it and they are mandated to do it by congressional and executive branch directives, Cuttino explained.
Private Sector Playing an Operational and Financial Role
“The military is not really interested in going into the energy business, so they are striking partnerships with companies like Sun Edison and Honeywell that will put in equipment and handle up-front costs. They are working with the private sector to achieve their goals,” Cuttino said.
In many cases the military has land they can’t use because the base only takes up a portion of the total parcel owned, so they are bringing in companies to develop solar arrays, for example, that guarantee a return on investment through financing mechanisms like enhanced use leases, power purchase agreements and a variety of other arrangements.
“It’s a win-win,” said Cuttino. “The base gets the energy they need and the company can sell any excess power to the grid.”
“The value of energy saving performance contracts across the armed forces has increased from $277 million in fiscal 2010 to just over $411 million in fiscal 2012, a 49 percent increase. Use of utility energy service contracts totaled $47.2 million in fiscal 2012, a 3 percent increase over fiscal 2010. Overall, the value of DOD third-party energy-efficiency contracts has increased by 42 percent, from $323 million in 2010 to $459 million in 2012,” according to the report.
The military is currently home to 50% of all microgrid projects in the US.
“The DOD is leading the way with emerging energy technology, as they have in the past with other technologies,” said Cuttino.
“The military is a great partner because they use lots of energy, have money and are reliable.”