Skip to main content

You are here

Military might may help grow green technology

There is wide consensus that the institutions which consume the most energy, and have the biggest research and development budgets, should be taking the biggest leaps towards efficiency, self-reliance, and using less barrels of the black stuff.

Take the US military, which was using an incredible 300,000 barrels of oil a day in 2009. Given budgetary sensitivities in the States and worldwide, and the notable recent international call to climate change action from the IPCC, there’s no wonder that we’re seeing concerted effort on its part to set a notable example.

The From Barracks to the Battlefield report in 2011 clocked a 200 per cent increase in military clean energy investments between 2006-’09, but with a 25 per cent renewable target by 2025, this will have to be simply the start of an even greater push. There is evidence that this is in progress, with US Army bases beginning the installation of 1GW of solar PV capacity.

Martial issues provoke strong and often polarised opinions, and of course this in not to say that sustainability lies in the hands of the arch-pragmatist enormous energy consumers.

Many a great idea has sprung from idealism, but from a purely quantitative standpoint, the military can demonstrate the potential for huge economies of scale for technologies that are distinctly civilian in origin. And they’ve also got a lot of big brains on the payroll to construct robust energy options of the future.

In an interesting article about renewables and energy efficiency in the US military, published by Renewable Energy Focus, many experts agreed that the military can prove to be one of the great drivers of clean technology industries.

There is also hope that the practical necessities of military operations mean that some existing technologies will be taken and adapted in a way that can prove ultimately useful to everyone. Examples of this include a new lightweight solar battery storage technology and a solar cell/ thermoelectric module that can be incorporated into clothing, both developed with the UK military. More everyday applications for the likes of these breakthroughs seem very feasible.

It’s not all about cutting-edge technology. Getting basic energy and water efficiency on an upwards trajectory has to be of prime concern for these massive institutions.

We’ve previously blogged on the MOD’s attempts to cut water use right across its estate. This is a super-size example of the need to get your basic resource efficiencies tackled at a more fundamental level: washing, heating, lighting, and cooking. Only then should you look to make your battle robot more energy efficient.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

Post a comment