The U.S. military is at the forefront of efforts to harness and deploy advanced microgrids, and in many respects these are emerging as the hub of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) overall strategy for energy security, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

They enable energy managers to take full advantage of on-site generation and advanced management tools, and to direct available power to mission critical activities on base, such as operating unmanned aerial vehicles that support combat operations. Microgrids also allow bases to separate from the grid as a self-generating “island.”

The report, Power Surge, finds the U.S. military is very much at the forefront of clean energy technology deployment, with their need to have reliable energy supply 24/7 while at the same time cutting costs and complying with federal and local requirements.

In 2012 there were 1,339 energy saving and efficiency projects at military installations, more than double the 630 in 2010, while the number of renewable energy projects increased to 700 from 454 during the same period.

In 2012 military installations were also home to more than half of the microgrid projects underway in the U.S., being installed as they seek to enhance their energy management activities, as part of a four-part master energy plan being implemented by the four branches – army, navy, air force, and marines.

The other parts of the plan include:

  • Reducing energy demand through conservation and efficiency, including building retrofits with advanced lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technologies
  • Increasing on-site electricity generation with renewable energy, with each military branch having a 1 GW renewable energy deployment goal by 2025
  • Catalyzing breakthroughs in efficiency, energy management, and renewables through the DOD Environmental Security Technology Certification Program and its Installation Energy Test Bed.

“The military’s clean energy installation initiatives are gathering momentum, enhancing base energy security,” said Phyllis Cuttino, who directs Pew’s project on national security, energy, and climate. “These improvements are possible even as the Pentagon’s budget is shrinking because the armed services are harnessing private sector expertise and resources.”

The DOD has one of the world’s largest inventories of real estate, with 550,000 buildings and structures encompassing an estimated 2.3 billion square feet, the report notes. These facilities require energy to run the lights; power communications, computers, and other advanced electronics; and provide heating and cooling. To support and advance its missions, the military has prioritized energy security at all installations.

The report was prepared with Navigant Research.