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US Army gets eco-conscious, preps mega solar plant

Get in da choppah, Mother Nature!!

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

You know the "go green" push is reaching a zenith when the fuel-slurping US Army wants to get serious about having a daintier environmental footprint.

The Army said it's enlisting several big new energy projects to promote less energy waste in local and overseas bases. Among its ambitions are rolling out a fleet of electric vehicles, establishing biomass fuel demonstrations at select Army posts, and constructing what could be one of the most powerful solar power plants in the world.

"We spend over $3bn every year on energy and the majority of it is spent on our installations. We can significantly reduce our energy consumption by partnering within government and with the private sector to capitalize on the great strides in proven technology that have been developed and implemented across the country," said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren.

Projects will be overseen by the Army's newly-established Senior Energy Council. Logically, plans for the foreseeable future are directed at the low-hanging fruit of energy conservation at military posts rather than attempt to push for eco-concious war zones.

Among the most ambitious project proposed is partnering with the private sector to construct a 500-megawatt solar thermal plant at Fort Irwin, California in the Mojave desert. The plant is expected to provide renewable power to the entire fort, with excess power pumped into the Southern California Edison grid. Fort Irwin is currently one of SC Edison's top energy consumers.

Presently, the world's largest solar farms produce a comparatively minor 10- to 14-megawatts, although a handful of much more ambitious projects are supposedly underway.

The Army also plans on working with the private sector and the Navy to construct a geo-thermal plant at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada that can produce 30-megawatts of clean power.

On the transportation side of the plans, the Army said it's "pursuing the purchase" of 4,000 small battery electric vehicles to replace gasoline-powered vehicles used by maintenance and operations staff. Six Army posts will also be chosen to become biomass fuel demonstration sites through a contract with the US Defense Logistics Agency.

Topping off the project is inking a pilot energy savings performance contract with a civilian firm. An Army installation will be selected become a model to all other bases for monitoring and reducing energy consumption. As an incentive, the contractor gets a share of the savings.

"The Army plans to increase efficiency and serve as a model for the military and the nation when it comes to the operation of our housing, buildings, and forward operating bases," said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations [gasp for breath] and Environment Keith Eastin. ®

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