Hampton Roads Businesses Help Military with Energy Innovations

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Recognizing the strategic and battlefield challenges posed by overreliance on conventional liquid fuels and an aging electric grid, the Department of Defense has implemented several clean energy initiatives to help meet its long-term power needs. A new study by the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate shows how initiatives to better serve combat troops could also help boost the efforts of U.S. businesses to gain a foothold in the growing global clean energy economy. From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America's Armed Forces finds that between 2006 and 2009DoD clean energy investments grew from $400 million to $1.2 billion, and are projected to eclipse $10 billion annually by 2030.

“The military bases in Hampton Roads, Virginia, are investing tens of millions of dollars in renewable energy and energy efficiency,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Larry Baucom, president of the World Affairs Council of Greater Hampton Roads. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Hampton Roads companies in these markets. The Department of Defense also has innovative contracting tools to purchase renewable energy from local sources. That provides a sizable, stable market for offshore wind and other renewable energy projects in Virginia.”

F-22Joint Base Langley-Eustis is developing its own biofuels, while figuring out ways to use less fuel during training and combat by reducing drag through paint materials and removing unnecessary weight. The base is home to a squadron of F-22 Raptors. On March 18, 2011, an F-22 successfully flew at super-cruise speed using a 50/50 blend of conventional petroleum-based JP-8 and biofuel derived from camelina, a weedlike plant not used for food. The opportunities for Hampton Roads' military installations to use these new technologies are increased further by collaborating with local colleges, such as Old Dominion University. For example, they are both working to turn algae, which is procured locally, into biofuels.

Overall, the department's priorities for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources have been driven by recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, where fuel shipments account for 80 percent of all supply convoys. As many as one in 46 convoys  suffered a casualty in fiscal 2010. The report finds that DoD's major energy challenges include risks associated with transporting liquid fuels to the battlefield, growing oil- price volatility, and the impact of fuel dependence on operational effectiveness.
 
“For the Department of the Navy to meet the challenges we face in the 21st century, we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil and find ways to use energy more efficiently,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. “We must ensure that we remain the most formidable expeditionary force in the world, even in these challenging economic times. We can do that in part by changing the way we use, acquire and produce energy. We will save the department money, but more importantly, these energy initiatives will make us better war fighters and will saves lives.”