US military to invest US$10 billion annually in renewable energy by 2030

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According to a recent report completed by Pike Research, annual spending on renewable energy by the Department of Defense (DOD) will reach US$10 billion by 2030. While a significant portion of this will be spent on facilities operations, including permanent bases, the majority of the spending will be for mobility applications including portable solar power as well as land, air and sea vehicles.

The U.S. Army announced in August 2011 that it has formed a new Energy Initiatives Task Force that will assess renewable energy projects, vet potential suppliers and develop new technologies to support the Army’s growing commitment to powering its bases and its missions with renewable energy.

In October 2010, the BBC reported that NATO fuel trucks were attacked by gunmen in Pakistan. It is hoped renewable energy will make military bases energy-independent and ultimately, immune from threats to the utility grid.

The website, Defense Industry Daily, estimated that for each gallon of fuel being shipped to Afghanistan, it requires 7 gallons of fuel for transport.

With this in mind, the Energy Intiatives Task Force will be part of a Pentagon-wide effort to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy sources as the military confronts the issues of energy costs, energy security for remote bases and operations and the effects of energy on strategic goals.

“The DOD is positioned to become the single most important driver of the cleantech revolution in the United States,” says Pike Research president Clint Wheelock. “In particular, military investment in renewable energy and related technologies can help bridge the ‘valley of death’ that lies between research and development and full commercialization of these technologies.”

Pike Research estimates that the DOD currently spends approximately US$20 billion per year on energy – 75% for fuel and 25% for facilities and infrastructure. Among the key sectors that will receive significant Pentagon attention and investment over the next two decades are solar power for both permanent bases and temporary facilities; fuel cells for individual soldier power; microgrids for military facilities; and biofuels for military vehicles, particularly the Navy’s “Great Green Fleet” initiative to shift to a largely biofuels-driven fleet by 2016.

Oil Change International recently commented that although there are obvious benefits to the military’s plans, there is also “something perverse about the American military protecting oil supplies in Iraq driving around in biofuel tanks, only for the oil to be shipped back home where the domestic vehicle fleet is incredibly inefficient and where the likes of the American Petroleum Institute want to keep the public gripped in fossil-fuel addiction, no matter what the consequences.”

The analysis from Pike Research aims to combine supply-side industry analysis, end-user primary research and demand assessment, and deep examination of technology trends to form their conclusions.

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