Air Force Solar Power
The Nellis Air Force base in Clark County, Nevada boasts one of the largest solar power arrays in North America – a 14MW system that supplies a quarter of the base’s power needs.

Photo Credit: Airman 1st Class Nadine Y Barclay, U.S. Air Force, Courtesy of Pew Report, “ReEnergizing America’s Defense

On May 26, a day that hit 92 degrees (a +4 degree record), there was no mincing words.

A decorated and experienced panel, hosted by the Pew Charitable Trust, presented a talk called Energy & Climate Change: National Security Challenges and Opportunities.

The speakers included Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn (U.S. Navy ret), Captain Michael Green (U.S. Army veteran from the war in Afghanistan), and Jim Kesseli, President of the innovative engineering company Brayton Energy.

The Undeniable Inevitability

In 2007, a report was issued by the CIA’s think tank CNA, with advisory input from thirteen members of the military’s upper ranks. The report is called “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” (PDF Download).

This report reaches a number of conclusions, which it does not shy from stating plainly:

Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world … Unlike most conventional security threats that involve a single entity acting in specific ways and points in time, climate change has the potential to result in multiple chronic conditions, occurring globally within the same time frame.

Projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world … Extreme weather events and natural disasters, as the U.S. experienced with Hurricane Katrina, may lead to increased missions for a number of U.S. agencies, including state and local governments, the Department of Homeland Security, and our already stretched military, including our Guard and Reserve forces.

Climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.

The military takes the relationship between climate change and energy very seriously. Here is a replica of a slide from Adm. McGinn’s presentation:

Intersection of Climate, Energy, and Security

The Call to Act

In response to these dire findings, the US Military is taking aggressive action to change their fossil fuel usage.

The Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate released a report, “Reenergizing America’s Defense: How the Armed Forces Are Stepping Forward to Combat Climate Change and Improve the U.S. Energy Posture.”

The Pew commission documents a number of initiatives by all branches of the military, including:

  • The US Army’s plan to build a 500-megawatt solar power generation plant at Fort Irwin, California and transition to the use of 4,000 electric vehicles during the next three years
  • The Navy’s goal to reduce petroleum use in the commercial fleet by 50 percent by 2015 and launch the “Great Green Fleet,” a strike group fueled completely by alternative fuels, by 2016.
  • The Air Force’s Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada – home to one of the largest solar arrays in North America, providing more than 25 percent of base energy, saving $1 million and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 24,000 tons annually.
  • The Marines’ goal to reduce energy intensity 30 percent by 2015, while simultaneously increasing renewable electric energy to 25 percent by 2025.

Green: The New Color of Patriotism

The speakers focused, in different ways on a simple conclusion – that our current path of reliance on oil harms not only the environment, but ourselves, domestically and internationally.

Army Capt. Michael Green, a New Hampshire native who has recently returned from the Middle East  struck the audience with this analogy: “When you think of a wind farm or a solar field, think of a World War Two victory garden.”

We couldn’t agree more!

Belgrade, Maine - Combo Solar Hot Water and Solar Power

Getting off oil is a most patriotic thing – not just as a way to preserve the old American way of life, but to spur the growth of the new one.