The military’s concerted effort to increase its reliance on renewable energy sources to power its installations is benefitting the civilian sector as well, lowering prices for renewables and curbing the demand for new power plants dependent on fossil fuels.
Most significantly, DOD’s shift to clean energy could make it easier for states to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency rules requiring them to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, reports the Washington Post.
“If the Army, Navy and Air Force met their combined announced goals of renewable energy capacity, the Defense Department could meet South Dakota’s challenging emissions reduction requirements nearly one and a half times over,” said Matt Stanberry, vice president for market development at Advanced Energy Economy, a nonprofit association made up of companies involved in clean energy technologies.
Even states that are not seeing new military solar and wind projects can benefit since EPA’s Clean Power Plan encourages the trading of credits for pollution reduction across state lines.
“It is very difficult to say at this point that one state is necessarily advantaged over another based on where the Pentagon is making its investments,” Stanberry said.
Utilities are clamoring to partner with the military services in an attempt to expand their portfolios of solar and wind energy projects. DOD’s push to adopt renewables was prompted by the federal mandate to obtain higher portions of its electricity needs from clean energy sources, but it’s also a response to climate change and emerging threats to the commercial grid.
“There are crises that occur across economic and political lines, and they are going to be exacerbated by increased pressure from weather events,” Dennis McGinn, the Navy’s assistant secretary of energy, installations and environment, told the Post. “We want to do our part to mitigate some of those effects, while also recognizing that we can’t avoid all of them.”
And while the large solar projects being developed on behalf of the military are expected to yield substantial cost-savings in the long run, McGinn said the Navy was willing to pay extra for other benefits from solar and wind energy.
“We’ve got a culture that is recognizing more and more the value of renewable energy,” he said, “and how a diversity of sources of power will stand you in good stead when times are great and when they’re not so great.”