The United States military is the world’s largest consumer of energy. In fact, the military accounts for nearly 75 percent of the United States Federal Government’s energy use, spending $4 billion annually on electricity. The Department of Defense must power the vehicles, machinery, and buildings that are used by more than 2.5 million active and reserve military personnel.
Over the past few years, the military has looked for ways to reduce energy costs while becoming more energy efficient and independent. From installing solar panels to building wind farms and energy efficient buildings, the U.S. military is making strides to use more clean energy.
North Carolina is no stranger to the armed forces or clean and renewable energy. The state is a national leader in solar energy, and is also home to military bases for four out of the five military branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Marines.
Fort Bragg, one of the country’s largest Army bases, pays nearly $50 million per year in energy costs. These high costs are expected given the sheer size of its campus. The base has buildings accounting for nearly 40 million square feet, which is about 10 times larger than the Pentagon. Officials at Fort Bragg have deployed measures to become more energy efficient and save money, and they’ve paid off. The base is currently saving $13 million annually.
Older buildings at Fort Bragg are coated with energy-saving materials that help with airflow efficiency. Solar lights shed natural light throughout the building, resulting in a lower need for electric lighting. Fort Bragg instructors are also educating their soldiers about energy consumption, benefits of reducing costs, and how they’re collectively bringing consumption and costs down.
The Army base also houses a solar wall that absorbs heat and distributes it throughout its facilities as needed. Paratroopers place their wet parachutes on a silo next to the wall to dry, significantly shortening the drying time by increasing temperatures up to 40 degrees.
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina’s largest Marine Corps. base, is becoming more energy efficient, too. For example, its newest mess hall is LEED Platinum Certified and features state-of-the-art energy efficient technology. To become LEED certified, buildings are audited by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC grades how buildings manage water, airflow efficiency and quality, energy emissions, natural lighting systems, and many other factors. A platinum certification is the highest grade that a building can receive.
From heat-monitoring systems and highly reflective skylight tunnels to geothermal plumbing and airflow control systems, Camp Lejeune’s mess hall sets the standard for energy efficiency.
Its heat monitoring systems maintain a low-cost temperature throughout the building. Reflective skylights use, and amplify, natural lighting. It connects from the building’s rooftop directly to designated rooms, using less energy and producing more light. Geothermal plumbing uses the earth’s energy to heat or cool water. These are just a few of the features that the North Carolina Marine base has implemented.
However, not all of Lejeune’s buildings are LEED certified. Daily energy audits are performed on older, non-efficient buildings to eliminate potentially wasted energy. Lights are shut off at specific times and kitchen machinery is shut down or rotated during slow times and weekends. Lejeune officials have implemented recycling and water conservation plans into these older buildings as well.
Lejeune’s Qualified Recycling Program (QRP) reduces the amount of waste generated and disposed. The program provides five consolidated turn-in facilities located throughout its buildings for recycled material collection. The recycling program collects aluminum and steel cans, glass, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, plastic beverage containers, and mixed paper.
Proceeds from the QRP are used for program improvement, providing instruction to residents, civilians, and military personnel on what and how to recycle, and to help pay for collection of recyclables.
The Air Force is raising its standards in North Carolina, too. Seymour Johnson Air Force base’s efficiency numbers are soaring. Multiple innovative technologies were used during construction, including high-efficiency HVAC systems, low-flow water fixtures, and high-efficiency lighting. The construction of this facility allowed for the consolidation of five functional buildings to increase efficiency and the demolition of four buildings, lowering utility costs for these organizations by 60 percent.
The world’s strongest military is making the shift toward more efficient, cost-effective energy sources in North Carolina. It is leading the way in renewable energy, setting the precedent for the rest of the United States to follow suit and become a stronger energy-independent country.