It may not be the mega contracts that we’ve seen for the F-35 or the MRAP or the Littoral Combat Ship(s), but since the U.S. Army says that it plans on spending about $7.1 billion over the next decade on renewable-energy technologies, you know that the defense industry is taking a hard look at what they can offer.
In order to shave some zeroes off of the Pentagon’s $15 billion-per year oil bill, Army Secretary John McHugh announced over the summer the establishment of the Energy Initiatives Office Task Force, which is focused on “working with the private sector to execute large-scale renewable energy projects,” according to an Army statement. The task force will conduct “an aggressive outreach effort to attract and engage private industry” in the renewable energy effort while working on turning over 5 million of the 15 million acres of land it owns within the United States for renewable energy infrastructure.
The announcement came shortly after defense giant Boeing teamed with Siemens to announce a “strategic alliance” for the development of smart grid technologies to improve energy savings at military installations. (Smart grids and micro grids typically consist of multiple, linked generators spread across an entire installation that only produce enough energy to meet the demand at any given time, eliminating unnecessary power generation.) The move comes as the Army is working on reducing all energy, water and waste usage at 100 installations worldwide to “Net Zero” by 2020 — meaning that it would produce “as much energy on or near the installation as it consumes in its buildings and facilities,” according to Army documents.
And Boeing and Siemens aren’t alone. Just last month, ConEdison Solutions (CES), one of the largest energy services companies in the country announced that it was interested in drumming up business with the DoD and the Department of Homeland Security. The company said that it thinks that its expertise in “the design, construction and maintenance of energy equipment retrofits and renewable energy facilities, solar/photovoltaic farms and geothermal power,” should prove interesting to the military.
All of this is probably just the tip of a $7.1 billion iceberg (which doesn’t even include the Air Force and Navy’s alternative fuels research). In a study released in September, market research firm Pike Research estimated that “the capacity of military microgrids will grow at a rate of 739 percent between 2011 and 2017, increasing from 38 megawatts (MW) to 316 MW during that period,” adding that “the opportunity to help develop these microgrids has attracted a number of powerful technology companies including Lockheed Martin, GE, Honeywell, Boeing, and Eaton.”
In other words, it’s going to pay to go green…