Military deployment of clean technology accelerates

The Department of Defense — eager to reduce its dependence on oil and keen to become energy-efficient at home — has aggressively invested in clean technology. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has made energy security and independence a cornerstone of his tenure.

“Power Surge,” a new report released Thursday by Pew Charitable Trusts, takes a look at how the military is partnering with private companies, including SunEdison, SunPower and SolarCity here in Silicon Valley, to scale solar on domestic military bases. According to Navigant Research, Pew’s partner for the report, 384 megawatts of installed renewable energy existed on Pentagon installations in mid-13. By the end of 2018, that capacity is expected to increase more than fivefold, to 2.1 gigawatts. Solar power and biomass are forecast to account for the vast majority of new renewable installations. And a stunning 80 percent of future DoD renewable energy projects will be financed through power purchase agreements that have private developers financing, building and maintaining the projects.

Silicon Valley cleantech companies have long known that the military is an ideal early adopter, willing to take risks on clean technologies, like biofuels, that may not yet be fully commercialized. And the Department of Defense is the largest institutional energy user in the United States, managing more than 500,000 buildings and structures at 500 major bases and installations around the world.

“The military’s clean installation initiatives are gathering momentum, enhancing base energy security,” said Phyllis Cuttino, who directs Pew’s project on national security, energy and climate. “These improvements are possible even as the Pentagon’s budget is shrinking because the armed services are harnessing private-sector expertise and resources.”

SunPower’s 13.78 megawatt solar power system at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

Dana Hull Dana Hull (252 Posts)

Dana Hull covers clean technology and energy policy for the San Jose Mercury News. She often writes about electric vehicles, the smart grid, the solar industry and California energy policy, from RPS goals to Gov. Jerry Brown's big dreams for distributed generation.