The military is one of the most important institutions we have. They lead the way into dangerous situations, protecting our borders and defending democracy across the world. With that level of commitment on the table, it’s almost impossible to conceive of another mission taking some level of precedence. But that has actually become the case, as the United States armed forces are making another statement with their focus on environmentally sustainable initiatives. And it’s a lot more than just lip service. Out of the stimulus fund recently allocated to the armed forces, our military leaders are putting $3.6 billion into the greenification of facilities. It’s a far cry from the normal image of our troops rolling around in massive, gas-guzzling machines, but an environmentally conscious armed force is now a reality. And it’s clear they are interested in paving the way towards more government organizations doing the same.
Their reasoning isn’t entirely altruistic. They’ve done the research and discovered that green energy sources can actually save the government money. Technology has caught up to need, and green energy is now as efficient as traditional fossil fuels. The government is one of the biggest energy consumers we have, so any savings that they can manage will impact our country’s bottom line in huge ways.
The Air Force is one military organization that has taken this very seriously. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Air Force actually made their list of the top 25 Green Power Partners, coming in at number sixteen. That’s better than many other massive organizations, including Google and the EPA itself. The Air Force has started their efforts on their bases, which now get six percent of their energy from sources of green power. The government has mandated a minimum of 5%, so they’re currently beating that by no small margin. But it sounds like they’re not going to stop there. The Air Force is looking into a number of cutting edge ways to improve their energy efficiency, including taking advantage of waste energy and landfill gas, and creating new power through geothermal heat pumps, wind, daylight, and solar thermal and solar photovoltaic sources.
The Navy is getting in on the action as well. They’re currently retrofitting a number of their bases with green energy systems. They’ve even done so at one of their most infamous locations, the Guantanamo Bay prison base in Cuba. Since the U.S. still has a chilly relationship with Cuba, the base at Guantanamo gets all of their resources either by aircraft or ship. So the Navy has streamlined how they use their energy in substantial ways. They’ve switched out their gas-operated patrol cars with bikes, and use solar lighting wherever possible. By their estimates, these simple changes are saving as much as $100,000 every day in fuel costs.
Beyond changing to existing technologies, the Armed Forces are also investing in infrastructure that will create more energy down the road. They’ve budgeted to put upwards of $1 billion into solar technology this year, specifically using it in all of their housing communities. They have similar projects in development at bases in Twenty Nine Palms, California, San Diego, Aurora, Colorado, Pearl Harbor, and even the naval base in Guam. All of these investments will leave more resources available for the armed forces to put elsewhere, such as additional military VA home loans for their retiring soldiers. It’s fantastic to see that taxpayers’ money is being used smartly, in a way that helps assure the future of our country, and a lessening of our dependence on foreign oil.