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Operational Energy

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Training, moving, and sustaining our forces

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Nearly 75 percent of America’s Defense energy costs in 2011 were operational energy costs. The DoD considers operational energy to be the energy used in military deployments, direct support for military deployments, and training in support of unit readiness for military deployments.

The majority of military operations depend on a single energy source—petroleum—which must be transported, often through and from unstable regions. From 2003 to 2007, more than 3,000 uniformed and contractor casualties were associated with fuel logistics. In Afghanistan and Iraq, fuel convoys are often the target of insurgent attacks.

New energy technologies and applications can help improve operational effectiveness. More efficient vehicles and vehicles that use advanced biofuels will reduce fuel demand on the battlefield and decrease the need for fuel delivery-related operations. Renewable energy platforms at forward operating bases can reduce the need for dangerous shipments of batteries and diesel fuel.

The American DoD has already begun taking important steps to minimize operational risk and maximize energy security:

  • By 2016, the Air Force wants to use alternative aviation fuels for 50 percent of its domestic aviation needs.
  • By 2020, the Navy aims to sail the Great Green Fleet and, with the Marines, plans to use alternative energy sources to meet 50 percent of its energy requirements across operational platforms.
  • In March 2011, the USMC’s  3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment returned from Sangin, Afghanistan, where they tested an experimental forward operating base (ExFOB) in a combat environment. At present, 2 patrol bases are operating entirely on renewable energy. Ground Renewable Energy Networks (GREENS), a 300-watt, photovoltaic/battery system, has helped a third base drop fuel use from 20 gallons per day to about 2.5 gallons.
  • In 2006, the Navy launched its first hybrid electric‐drive surface combatant, the USS Makin Island. The estimated cost savings will be $248 million over its service life.
  • The Army launched the Afghanistan Microgrid Project.  A one-megawatt microgrid installed at Camp Sabalu-Harrison can be configured through distribution networks to provide power to 66 structures, and has the advantage of being able to match power generation with demand as opposed to running stand-alone generators 24 hours a day.

Check out ASP’s slides on Biofuels and National Security here.

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