WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 6, 2013) -- The Army's "Net Zero" energy initiative is a model for the private sector and a testament to the "art of the possible," said the assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.
The Army has 152 installations around the world, each equivalent to being a small city, said Katherine Hammack, during a roundtable discussion at the non-profit National Academies in Washington, D.C., June 6.
She said the Army is unique because there is a "city-wide policy with one owner."
"We can do things on a scale that you can't do in the normal private sector," Hammack said. "That enables us to try a lot of different things as an example for what the private sector could do."
During an event that brought together representatives from government and the private sector to discuss science and technology for sustainability, Hammack explained how the Army is among the nation's top consumers of energy and water, and one of the largest contributors to the waste stream.
One of the goals of the Army's "Net Zero" initiative, which was launched in 2011, is to have an installation produce as much energy as it consumes. That results in a net usage of zero energy for the installation. The Net Zero program also focuses on water and waste, with similar goals.
Seventeen installations are now taking part in pilot programs as part of the Army's Net Zero initiative. Additionally, the Oregon Army National Guard is seeking to be Net Zero in energy across the state.
"Net Zero is a standard we strive to that allows the Army to be both fiscal and environmental stewards of the lands we occupy," Hammack said. She said that includes about 14 million acres in the United States.
She highlighted the initiative as a strategy of going beyond just compliance to "push the limits of what you can do in a cost-effective manner."
The installations participating in the Net Zero pilot programs are diverse, Hammack said. They include sprawling installations such as Fort Hood and Fort Bliss -- both in Texas -- as well as much smaller installations like Fort Buchanan, in Puerto Rico. One unique participating installation she highlighted was Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. That remote installation gets all its energy from diesel-powered generators.
"We didn't pick just the easy [installations]," Hammack said. "We picked a wide variety to demonstrate what the art of the possible is."
She said the Net Zero program saves taxpayer money, especially in times of fiscal challenges, uses resources more wisely and efficiently, and reduces the Army's impact on the environment.
Other important benefits, she said, are providing energy security, reducing vulnerabilities and protecting Soldiers.
"We need to think of ways to generate more energy within a controllable boundary so that we can serve this nation, whether our risk for vulnerability is due to nature or whether it is due to acts of man," Hammack said.
She used the example of how a remote base that guards a mountain pass in Afghanistan worked with a Net Zero team and reduced the need for aerial resupply missions from one every three days to one every 10 days.
Soldiers had to leave their secure location to receive those airdropped supplies. That put them in danger and took them away from the mission.
"By having one aerial resupply every 10 days, those Soldiers can focus on the mission, versus on the resources required to support the mission," she said.
She also said sustainability makes the Army stronger.
"To us, better managing your energy and water, or becoming more sustainable, increases our resilience over those things that we don't have control [of]," she said.
She said the installations that are taking part in the Net Zero initiative are motivated and proud to be a part of the important effort.
"If we can become more resource independent, we can become more sustainable, which means we can focus on our mission -- serving and protecting this nation," said Hammack.