It is a return to nature for the US Department of Defense. The U.S. military is stepping up its renewable energy activity with its first floating solar array, which could be a model for much more. Meanwhile, the Navy and Marines have just unveiled a new climate action plan that highlights something called “nature-based solutions.” What’s next, windsurfers?
Floating solar energy for the US military
CleanTechnica first received wind on the army’s floating solar project back in 2020. The defense ministry played its renewable energy initiatives pretty close to the vest during the Trump administration, but as the 2020 election cycle drew to a close, it dropped plans to build a new photovoltaic network. of 1.1 megawatts, which will float on top of Big Muddy Lake at Camp Mackall in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“The new floating solar panels are attracting attention because Fort Bragg is the largest military facility in the world,” we noted. The current list includes 49,000 military personnel along with 11,000 civilians and 23,000 family members.
Fort Bragg is also of interest as the headquarters of the U.S. Army Command, the United States Special Operations Command, the Joint Special Operations Command, the XVIII Airborne Corps, the U.S. Army Reserve Command Headquarters, the Womack Army Medical Center and the Air Transport Point for Fort Bragg’s Global Response Force, among other operations.
The largest floating solar power plant in the southeast
Apart from being the Ministry of Defense’s first breakthrough into a floating solar field, the new solar power plant is also significant because it is the largest solar installation of its kind in the southeastern United States, a region where some countries lag far behind in renewable energy development.
If the Big Muddy Lake group works as expected, it could set the stage for even more in the region, and we’ll find out. Last week, the U.S. military announced the completion of a new power plant, which comes with a 2-megawatt battery storage system.
“In collaboration between Fort Bragg, Duke Energy and Ameresco, this utility contract will provide carbon-free production on site, replenish electricity to the local grid and provide backup power for Camp Mackall during a power outage,” the military explained. .
Piling On The Resiliency
As for the backup power supply, another interesting thing about this installation is the addition of resistance in the form of an electronic recloser, which is a kind of amplified version of the switch.
“Reclosers react to transient events, such as a tree branch brushing against a transmission line, to quickly reset the system and restore power,” the military explained. “This technology provides better protection for system power lines and minimizes damage to sensitive electronic equipment in the event of a power outage.”
Rekloser is funded through the Environmental Technology Certification Program, part of a joint agency consisting of the Ministry of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Energy.
Solar energy and land, land, land
So here’s where things get interesting. The U.S. Department of Defense helped boost the market for early adoption of solar energy for utilities during the Obama administration. Now that the market is maturing, land use issues have flared up as agricultural land, forests and other lands give way to the ranks of solar energy.
One might think that the Ministry of Defense is isolated from such controversies, but they would be mistaken. The agency has installed a lot of solar panels on land, but it can’t just install them that way, like it or not. In addition, DOD has been engaged in its own land use struggles for years, as the human population is constantly encroaching on its vast training grounds.
One part of the agency’s land conservation strategy is to catalog indigenous flora and fauna on its sites, in order to identify them as habitat-protected areas. This may seem a bit counterintuitive for exercises that involve blowing things up, but apparently there is still plenty of room to conserve natural habitats in the Ministry of Defense’s terrain.
Fort Bragg is one such example. Back in 2018, our friends were in Fayetteville Observer cataloged some of the rare species found at Fort Bragg, including the red-breasted woodpecker, whose discovery in 1988 forced Camp Mackall to suspend his training for a while until he worked out a plan for coexistence.
“Thousands of hectares of woodpecker habitat around the post office have since been protected through public-private partnerships, and in recent years officials have said the woodpecker population has more than doubled since the late 1990s.” Observer logged in.
The US Navy is floating solutions based on nature
Floating solar energy fits neatly into this slot as it provides DOD with new opportunities to locate new solar arrays in its facilities without encroaching on natural habitats.
This brings us to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, which also relies on nature to aid in its new 2030 climate action plan. In addition to a healthy dose of investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, the plan includes natural carbon sequestration and ecosystem restoration measures.
“Based on Executive Order 14072, Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities and Local Economies, DON will extract an additional five million metric tons of CO2e per year through nature-based solutions by 2027, roughly the same as removing one million cars from the road on land it manages DON or working with partners “, explains DON.
DON already has the advantage Climate Change Planning Manual: Adaptation and Resilience of Installation guidelines, outlining the protection of wetlands and coastal ecosystems, as well as regenerative land management. As with regenerative agriculture, this applies to processes that preserve and build soil and contribute to healthier soil. Some aspects of this area are impressively simple and also save money.
One example DON cites is the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, which reduced mowing and allowed most of the base to be afforested. As described in Climate Action 2030, Based has saved more than $ 400,000 a year on maintenance while saving on emissions from mowing equipment. Separating carbon dioxide, improving the habitat of species, reducing excess rainwater and improving the quality of life of people in the facility are among the other benefits.
“Keeping more grass near the airport has also reduced the risk of bird strikes, which is a significant benefit for the mission,” they also note.
As for warships in the wind, maybe. During the Obama administration, the Navy set up a low-emission green fleet with a strong emphasis on biofuels and nuclear power. Wind energy then also began to rise, but did not appear in the Green Fleet.
Recently, new wind-based marine technology has begun to emerge in the form of rigid sails, kite-like sails, and rotor-type wind turbines that do not look like sails at all.
So far, much of the activity has focused on the area of cargo ships, so it is possible that the disturbance has crossed the navy radar. If you have any thoughts on this, leave us a message in a series of comments.
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Photo: Floating solar array in Fort Bragg courtesy of the U.S. military.
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