Operation Greentech: The Military Goes All In With Energy Innovation 

Yoni Cohen | Greentech: “I was involved in the planning for OIF-1 [Operation Iraqi Freedom-1], going across the berm into Iraq,” said Lieutenant General Raymond Mason, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for logistics. “There were a number of decision points. Two decision points that the CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] commander had were: [1] he wanted to make sure that he had 60 days of fuel on the ground before he crossed the berm … and [2] he wanted to have a 60-day supply of batteries. The four-star commander was worried about fuel and batteries. I would prefer he doesn’t have to worry about [either] in the future.”

Toward that end, and now more than ever, the U.S. military is committed to funding and deploying disruptive energy technologies.

“The U.S. military, across the board, has decided that energy is a strategic issue that affects their operations and budget in profound ways,” said former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry.  “When oil goes from $60 to $100 a barrel, the amount that the Air Force and the Navy have to spend on fuel goes up dramatically. […] A spike in the price of oil means fewer airplanes they can buy.” He added, “From an operational point of view, getting fuel to a site in Afghanistan is very expensive.”

In the interest of national security, the military is pursuing advanced batteries and novel biofuels for the battlefield and energy-efficient buildings and energy-independent bases for the home front. The Armed Forces are investing and enabling green technologies independently, through its own research (e.g., DARPA) and procurement (e.g., the Army’s new Energy Initiatives Office) processes, as well is in cooperation with the Department of Energy.

“We in Defense must innovate to protect the country. Our technology is second only to the quality of the people we have in uniform in what makes our military the best in the world,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. “We’re all in with the Department of Energy (DOE). It makes sense and it is good for the taxpayer. We’re all in with ARPA-E. We look forward to working with [the DOE] well into the future. Just like DARPA has been around for 50 years, I dare say ARPA-E will be around for decades as well.”

Better Batteries

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated the military’s pressing need for more efficient batteries for hand-held electronics.

“When I was a young lieutenant, the only batteries I had to worry about were the ones in my flashlight. If I had two AA batteries, I was good to go,” said Mason. “But if you look at what we put on a soldier today, the amount of batteries is absolutely incredible because of the power needed for the GPS, headset displays, weapons systems, radios and on and on.” Read more

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