Clean and renewable energies central to National Security

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) issued an announcement recently that outlined some of the steps that the DoD would be taking in order to continue to improve their energy self-sufficiency and efficiency moving forward.

The need for clean energy and energy efficiency has an enduring security angle, she said, adding that it’s the only way to break out of the paradigm of foreign energy dependence and its associated instability.

The Defense Department’s changing mission also has energy security implications, Burke said. In January 2012, Panetta and President Barack Obama released new strategic guidance that called for a rebalance of focus to the Asia-Pacific region.

Considering that the Defense Department already is the single largest consumer of fuel in the country, if not the world, she said, it’s “sobering” to think about what the rebalance means for fuel consumption. Last year, the department used 4.3 billion gallons of petroleum, and spent about $20 billion on fuel, Burke said.

According to one Army estimate, soldiers walking a three-day foot patrol in Afghanistan may be carrying anywhere from 10 to 18 pounds of batteries, Burke told the audience. “We want to look at how we can power that particular system -- the human system -- better,” she said.

Other systems that require large amounts of energy are combat outposts and forward operating bases, Burke said. These bases serve as hubs for troops when they operate -- they project power from there, fight from there, live there, get intelligence from there and communicate from there. These activities are all powered by diesel generators, she said.

Solar energy is being put to some promising uses, Burke said. At the troop level, she said, flexible solar rechargers are already out on the battlefield.

“We're also interested in ruggedized solar that can generate power at forward bases … [and] we’ve tested unmanned aerial systems using solar [power],” Burke said. In one such test, she said, the aircraft was aloft for two straight weeks without refueling.

Read the whole announcement here