Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving Thanks to the Military and the Companies that are Creating a Sustainable Military to Protect Our Troops

"Honor to the Soldier, and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field, and serves, as he best can, the same cause -- honor to him, only less than to him, who braves, for the common good, the storms of heaven and the storms of battle." --December 2, 1863 letter from President Lincoln to George Opdyke and others
This week that falls soon after Veteran's Day is a week for giving thanks and a perfect time to highlight the military and the companies that are working to develop and deploy technologies that will reduce the military's dependence on oil and protect our troops. In short, for the military – sustainable energy saves lives. CNN reports that 1 out of 8 U.S. Army casualties in Iraq was the result of protecting fuel convoys. In fact, there were 3,000 casualties protecting fuel convoys in Iraq from 2003-2007. The logistics of moving fuel to encampments is very costly in terms of planning, budget and lives. The military reports that it can cost up to $40 a gallon to get fuel into the most remote and dangerous places.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is seeking to address challenges to energy supply and by doing so, creating opportunity for companies that provide technologies that: reduce energy use, secure our energy supply and protect our troops by reducing our dependency on fossil fuel sources. For our forces abroad an example of these technologies are solar panels that roll up like beach mats that are then carried in backpacks to recharge batteries. The Wall Street Journal reported that the solar panels the size of placements can replace hundreds of pounds of spare batteries in their packs. Use of the panels reduces the need for helicopters to provide additional batteries and the trucks have to convoy less fuel for generators. Also, keeping extra batteries out of packs means the troops can move faster and farther than before.

The military has long been recognized as a source for technological innovation and in August, the Army established the Energy Initiatives Office Task Force to manage the development of renewable energy projects and help improve issues of energy security.

In a traditional sense, the term energy security often refers to oil supply. The U.S. currently imports at least 60% of its oil from foreign sources and the percentage is increasing. This is problematic for a number of reasons. The electricity problem, however, is different and also an issue of energy security. The U.S. has adequate natural resources to meet its electricity needs for the foreseeable future from coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydropower, wind, solar and geothermal. The issue is the electricity grid. It is susceptible to extended outage from natural disaster or sabotage.

The problems associated with an antiquated grid are multiplied for the DoD as the largest single consumer of energy in the United States. To address this challenge, the DoD is looking to renewable energy and micro grids to make sure that when disaster strikes, the military can sustain critical operations. According to the DoD, "the modern military needs to evolve its power infrastructure. New threats demand new defenses." The ability of an installation to sustain itself is adversely impacted by a fragile, aging, and fossil-fuel dependent electricity grid – and this poses a significant threat to national security.
To address these risks, the DoD is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a micro grid technology. The initiative has been dubbed, the "Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security" or SPIDERS for short. The goal is to enable the ability to operate in an islanded mode during emergency for an extended period of time and provide redundancy in both energy supply and pathways for distribution. Ideally, smart technology would allow for integration of different energy sources, enable energy storage and provide for advanced metering capabilities. As an added benefit, the micro grid could help utilities manage their peak loads by "islanding" for short periods of time when utilities are facing critical load periods. The army is starting with three locations: Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Camp Smith, Hawaii.

And so, President Lincoln's call to honor the soldier and the citizen that supports him still stands today. It is anticipated that the deal flow between the military and suppliers in the private sector is likely to grow with major industry experts believing that collaboration and third party investment is the way forward to create a more cost effective and sustainable military.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Special Guest Posting: “Climate Change” by Jordi de la Torre (3rd Grade)

Greenhouse gases cause global warming. Greenhouse gases are gases that trap the sun's heat. One greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide. Some carbon dioxide is good because plants use it to make food. But people are adding much more. The result is that the extra carbon dioxide traps heat causing the temperature of the Earth to rise. If the temperatures keep rising it could cause extreme weather, warmer seas, changing habitats and hurt people and animals.