via Intelligent Utility
The nation’s armed forces all face vulnerabilities and hurdles to achieve their respective missions, whether in the field or at home. Power and energy figure prominently in those vulnerabilities and hurdles, just as they do in the solutions.
In the field, for instance, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have repeatedly shown that fuel trucks traveling vulnerable supply lines to reach forward positions are prone to attack, resulting in casualties and tactical setbacks. Likewise, the individual soldier in combat relies on communications gear that needs a lightweight, independent source of power.
At home, it has become clear that one of the greatest vulnerabilities at military bases is their supply of power. The resulting embrace of microgrids and related technologies, however, was not a straight line.
First, in 1998, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) ordered the military to “get DoD out of the business of owning … and operating utility systems.” Within seven years–and the impact of 9/11 and two wars–a U.S. Navy report declassified last year found that base security and autonomy required the exact opposite approach. See my column on this issue, “Military Microgrids: A Journey.”
Little wonder then, that despite its size and bureaucracy, the nation’s various armed forces “get” the advantages of autonomy and independence from external power sources through microgrids, distributed generation and other technologies that fall under the catch-all “smart grid” moniker. The drivers, in order of importance, are protecting the lives of our young men and women in the field, accomplishing our military objectives and maintaining readiness at both forward bases and in the homeland. In short: national security.
The obvious upshot is a political question: If the military services “get it,” why are the politicians who claim to support the military seeking an end to one of our premier national labs that closely partner with our military? (See “Rep. Lamborn Backs Bid to Unplug National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden.”) You can’t have the feel-good headline that our armed services “get” smart grid without asking that uncomfortable question and pondering its wholly inadequate answer.