Sustainable Cities Collective has re-launched as Smart Cities Dive! Click here to learn more!

Operation 'Use The Sun': The U.S. Military's Sustainability Strategy

For those of you who did not know, our military spends a lot of money to support itself. One of its biggest expenses is its huge appetite for energy. Specifically, according to Colonel Dan Nolan, "The DOD is the world's largest oil consumer," accounting for 25% of the globe's consumption. Due to that need for oil, Colonel Nolan says that this is the first time since the Civil War that our country is funding both sides of a war.

When you consider the size of our military, it can bring on feelings of both pride and concern:

  • There are 1.3 million active duty military personnel
  • There are also 684,000 civilian employees
  • If the military was a state, it would be the size of Pennsylvania
  • In financial year 2010, they spent $3.95 billion on facility energy alone

Solar PanelsSo what does one do with numbers like these? At yesterday's Solar Exchange East, hosted at North Carolina State University and sponsored by Siemens, there were several individuals, who work with the government to answer that exact question.

Programs like the NetZero Energy Program running at Fort Bragg in North Carolina aim to have the base generate as much energy as the base will consume. No small task, says Keith McCallister, who is working on the project, when you consider that Fort Bragg, "used 539,000MW hours last year."

One way to achieve this rather daunting task may be through some projects that are in "hot water" – solar thermal hot water to be specific. In an ongoing project at Camp Lejeune, FLS Energy equipped 900 privatized homes with a single solar panel on each home's rooftop. With the successful completion of those installations, they have been asked to fit an additional 1,300 homes with the same solution, making it the largest solar thermal project in the continental USA.

Editor's note: Sheila Oliva is an employee of Siemens. Siemens is a sponsor of The Sustainable Cities Collective.

The result? Residents have seen a 20-25% savings right from the start. Even better news, "All FLS Energy's solar panels are manufactured by a company in Jacksonville, FL. There are lots of great panel makers in the US," says Brownie Newman, Vice President, Director of Financed Projects for FLS Energy.

These were only a few examples of the efforts being made in tackling the issues our government is having with powering our military efforts. Each of the panelists at the event seemed to echo the same message, our military installations are like a garden just begging for the sun to shine on them.

Or, in the words of Colonel Nolan, "We've got the land and we've got the demand!"