Microgrids: The next logical step for the military
By Stuart McCafferty
For the past several years the military has been installing renewable energy assets, primarily solar, to reduce its dependency on traditional generation sources. Federal mandates (See my previous Smart Grid News Article, "Why federal renewable mandates challenge U.S. utilities (and what they can do)”)
have accelerated the pace that DoD installations have added solar and wind plants in a race to be compliant.
The Energy Initiative Task Force (EITF) is the Army’s responsible organization for identifying, prioritizing, and coordinating large-scale renewable energy of 10 MW and greater. The Civil Engineering Center leads the renewable energy program for the Air Force, performing similar roles to the Army’s EITF. The Navy has established Task Force Energy which is responsible for the overall energy strategy both onshore and at sea, and is supported by the tactical Navy Energy Coordination Office (NECO) responsible for implementing the strategy. Bottom line, there’s a lot going on and the U.S. military is taking energy very seriously.
Unless you have been Rip Van Winkle for the past three years, you couldn’t have missed all the budgeting issues with sequestration, budget reductions, and partisan Congressional indecision. The military has had to get pretty creative in how it funds these "non-mission-critical” projects. In fact, the President’s 2014 Research and Development budget proposed a $4.6B budget decrease from 2012 and only $2.1B shared across numerous "priorities,” only one of which is "more efficient energy”. The DoD has effectively been given an "unfunded mandate” and is rapidly mastering its renewable energy programs.
Each of the above-mentioned DoD energy centers of excellence have become truly expert in identifying, prioritizing, planning, and, in particular, "using other people’s money” to develop renewable energy projects on military installations. They are learning lessons, collaborating with each another, talking and listening to industry, establishing common processes, and "quick-timing it” towards the DoD’s mandate of 25% renewable energy usage by 2025.