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.