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In Our Opinion — March 2013

Going — and Saving — Green

 

As military installations across the Department of Defense (DoD) look to be more fiscally responsible, and strive for ways to be more efficient with their resources, for many, the answer — in the form of abundant natural, renewable energy — is right outside their front doors.

Sustainability is a topic that has been on the radar for some time, but over the past few years DoD has been pushing for the use of more green building practices, and setting minimum standards for new construction projects that meet the strict guidelines of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, building certification process, which was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The LEED-certification process uses a point system to determine the environmental merits of a building, and projects can apply for a silver, gold or platinum rating. Today, most military construction projects strive for the minimum silver rating, while many also apply for and earn a higher certification level of gold or platinum.

In addition, military installations are buying more green products, from furniture and fabrics that are made from recycled or recyclable materials to using more environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and products. And the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Air Force Nonappropriated Purchasing Division continue to encourage military bases to go green, which not only helps the environment, but also conserves precious resources — and money — in the process.

Taking it a step further, DoD, under the leadership of the Army, has embarked on an ambitious mission with its Net Zero Installation Strategy to create “Net Zero” installations worldwide by fiscal 2030. A “Net Zero” installation produces as much energy as is consumed, thereby saving tons of green in the process. By focusing on five main areas of sustainability — reduction; re-purpose; recycling and composting; energy recovery; and disposal — net zero installations will consume only as much energy or water as they produce and eliminate solid waste to landfills.

The office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (ASA) for Installations, Energy and Environment (IE&E) developed a strategy for installations to be net zero, based on “net zero energy,” “net zero water” and “net zero waste,” all striving toward sustainable installations. The Army hopes to create a culture that recognizes the value of sustainability measures in terms of financial, mission capability, quality of life, local community relationships and preserving the Army's future options.

Many pilot installations have already embarked on this greener path, becoming centers of energy and environmental excellence, showcasing best practices and demonstrating effective resource management. Moving forward, ASA/IE&E will identify an additional 25 installations in each category in FY14, which will strive to achieve net zero by FY30.

In this issue of Military Club & Hospitality, there are great examples of this progress toward a greener, more efficient future. The new solar-energy project at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., includes the addition of solar photovoltaic panels on 1,500 of the 2,200 homes in this joint-base community, which will produce energy that in the past was paid for at a premium. Once completed, the joint base is expected to generate about 13.7-million kilowatt-hours of renewable electric power annually, and is estimated to save a third of the electricity consumed.

Prior to this project, more than 1,000 solar photovoltaic panels were placed atop the 99th Regional Support Command Headquarters on base, creating an energy output produced approximately 310,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, while eliminating 2,177 tons of airborne toxins, and saving more than $160,000 annually.

Success stories like this can be found throughout DoD, as services begin to realize the substantial savings that are attainable by heading on the path to green. There is no better time than now to begin the journey.