WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 10, 2014) – The Army has made significant strides in its energy programs, despite challenges with budgets and manpower, according to a top Army official.
The Army reaps many benefits from the energy programs, including sustainability, installation resiliency, energy security, and a strengthened mission, according to Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.
“Our energy program is really about ensuring that the Army can do its mission,” she said at a media roundtable at the Pentagon, Wednesday.
While the program has environmental and sustainability benefits, the primary focus is for the Army to be able to meet its goals in the “face of increasing challenges, whether they are resource limitations, or budget limitations,” she said.
With more money and more manpower, Hammack said, the Army could “move faster and do more.”
“But it’s just not reasonable in today’s economic climate,” she said.
Despite barriers with manpower and seed money for the projects, the Army is still on track to meet the commitment it made to President Barack Obama for one gigawatt of renewable energy, by 2025, she said.
The combination of efficiency and renewable energy ensures that installations are “more resilient now and into the future,” Hammack said.
The Army is constantly looking to improve its capabilities through greater efficiency, whether at installations or through the vehicles and equipment used by Soldiers on the battlefield, she said.
“We’ve made great progress,” she said.
The Army sustainability report is being released in the coming days, and provides transparency on Army projects and highlights important progress made, according to Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability.
“Overall the trends for Army performance on renewable energy, water reduction, petroleum reduction, all of the trends are very positive,” he said.
Kidd also noted that with $319 million in performance contracting, fiscal year 2013 was the “best year ever” for the Army for performance contracting on its installations.
“This is a very important stream of investment to improve the energy efficiency of our installations, provide (operations and maintenance), as well as in some cases install renewable power generation,” he said.
More good news, he said, is that the Army doubled its renewable energy consumption in fiscal year 2013 from the previous year, and is expected to double that consumption again this year.
The Army is looking at new avenues for energy efficiency and security, he said, including from electric vehicles.
A test project is under way at Fort Carson, Colorado, in which energy from electric vehicles has been used to power a headquarters building; at Fort Hood, Texas, he noted, there is a project to see if power from electric vehicles can be sold to the utility company.
“It’s pretty exciting to see where the Army’s come over the last four years,” Kidd said, noting that he and Hammack both came to the Army around that timeframe, when, he said, the Army really “did not have a renewable energy program or much to speak of” then.
The Army has to also take into consideration the impacts of climate change in its planning for maintaining installations and training, Kidd said.
“The effects are many and varied,” he said, noting that issues such as rising sea levels, hotter and drier conditions in some places and wetter conditions in others, and erosion, are all factors that place constraints on training.
The Army manages the habitat for endangered and protected species as well. As the natural habitats degrade elsewhere, the military-controlled habitats will even be more critical to the survival of those animals, he said.
“We anticipate increased pressure for species protection on the lands under the Army’s control,” he said.
The efforts for the Army energy projects are done in cooperation with a range of federal agencies, both within the Army and elsewhere in the federal government, as well as with installations and industry, according to Amanda Simpson, the executive director of the newly established Office of Energy Initiatives.
Energy projects under way include the utility-owned solar array at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, which will be the largest array in the Department of Defense when completed next year, Simpson said.
A contract has just been signed for Fort Drum, New York, to meet all its electrical needs from a newly operational, privately owned and operated biomass facility, she said.
Other projects include solar projects in several states, as well as a biodiesel project that will provide “security for Army and state operations in Hawaii in times of emergency,” Simpson said.
“Each of our projects contributes to the security of our Army. Every project is cost neutral or yields cost avoidance at day one of operations,” she said.
The projects, which are privately owned, financed and operated, help put the Army on its way to meeting congressional, secretarial and presidential mandates, she said.
Simpson noted her office aims to secure Army installations with energy that is clean, reliable, and affordable.