Fort Bliss is the nation’s largest Army base and has spent considerable money and effort to reduce energy consumption, waste and water usage and become generally more self-sufficient. This is part of a larger overall effort by the U.S. Army to generate 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
The New York Times recently published a piece detailing the base’s efforts to get to “net zero”; it is one of only two bases in the country that the Army has selected to become completely self-sufficient in the energy, water and waste categories by 2018.
Because of its large size–the base takes up more area than the state of Rhode Island–it’s a particularly challenging goal. Additionally, since the First Armored Division returned from Germany recently, the soldiers assigned to base have tripled to 30,000.
The base estimates that with the increase in manpower, electricity demand will jump by as much as 60 percent between fiscal years 2010 and 2015. One of the most obvious upgrades for the base to combat energy costs is to install a large solar system since Fort Bliss is located in region with abundant sunshine. The base will produce enough solar to support 1 percent of its electricity demand by the end of the year.
Obviously, this will not be enough to bring the base to net-zero, so the base’s command is also considering other renewable technologies, including the installation of wind turbines, geothermal wells and a process to turn waste matter into electricity. These projects however would take a long time to get through an extensive permitting process.
As with any expensive upgrade, funding is also a hurtle as well. There are ways around budget restrictions. At Fort Hood for example, a one-megawatt solar installation was constructed to power a housing community. The private housing company paid for the $3 million project, at no expense to the Army. The private company will recoup its costs through the solar-generated savings on the electric bills over the years.