By Ehren Goossens
The U.S. Army is spending billions of dollars shifting toward solar energy, recycled water and better-insulated tents. The effort isn’t about saving the Earth.
Instead, commanders have found they can save lives through energy conservation. It’s especially true in Afghanistan, where protecting fuel convoys is one of the most dangerous jobs, with one casualty for every 24 missions in some years.
With renewable energy, “there is no supply chain vulnerability, there are no commodity costs and there’s a lower chance of disruption,” Richard Kidd, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army in charge of energy security, said in an interview. “A fuel tanker can be shot at and blown up. The sun’s rays will still be there.”
While President Barack Obama called on the U.S. government to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 28 percent by 2020, the Army is embracing renewables to make the business of war safer for soldiers. In May, it announced plans to spend $7 billion buying electricity generated by solar, wind, geothermal and biomass projects over the next three decades.
The transition is a sales opportunity for companies including Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), which is installing small-scale power systems at U.S. bases, along with Alta Devices Inc. and Sundial Capital Partners, which make sun-powered systems. The moves threaten U.S. utilities, which stand to lose revenue when the Army shifts to photovoltaic panels from traditional power sources.