The Colorado Army National Guard’s Environmental Quality program has set its sights not just on improving the environment for effective management of military uses, but on being a leader in the state and nation in adopting, implementing and improving environmental management overall.
For this work, hallmarked by integrated energy use reduction, waste minimization and diversion, and for moving the COARNG fleet to greener options, the unit was awarded the 2022 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for non-industrial installation Environmental Quality.
“EQ led the way, and in turn helped the COARNG become a leader in our state’s environmental planning, while creating a model for other state agencies to follow in technology adoption and expansion,” said Mr. Mark Hague, Environmental Branch Chief. “We are now established as a leading force for long-term, comprehensive approaches to sustainability throughout the state of Colorado and for the military. As a military organization that includes some of the most high-tech, modern and cutting-edge missions, we embraced the environmental challenges adopting the same forward-thinking approach.”
One highlight of the COARNG’s efforts are the significant strides the organization made converting to electric and hybrid vehicles from the internal combustion engines that had made up its fleet. In 2019-2020, the unit acquired six zero-emission vehicles – five electric vehicles and one plug-in hybrid. The COARNG also successfully pursued grant funding from the Regional Air Quality Council, which will help keep costs down as they transition to more zero-emission vehicles.
Each EV that replaces an internal combustion vehicle, with an annual average of 9,000 miles, has an estimated annual cost savings of $2,000 per vehicle in reduced fuel and maintenance costs. By 2026, COARNG plans to achieve 12% battery electric and 18% plug-in hybrid vehicles in its fleet of state and federal vehicles.
The EQ staff had to overcome challenges that complicated the implementation of EV charging stations because of conflicts between federal and state policies and regulations. By addressing these challenges, the COARNG has moved forward with construction at three, high-density sites in Colorado, and created a model for others to use in addressing similar issues.
Another bright spot was the installation of a 150-kilowatt solar field at the Fort Lupton Readiness Center in 2020. This addition to the energy management program offsets 100 percent of the facility’s annual electricity consumption.
This improvement at Fort Lupton is just the beginning, as the EQ team is already at work planning for future statewide improvements and expansions, including smart electric panels, micro-grid and distributed energy resource additions, generator expansion and LED lighting retrofits. The planning and savings these improvements will bring are made possible by the EQ team’s ability to leverage federal funds with a nearly 50 percent match from the state.
This year, as part of its ongoing improvement efforts, the COARNG is completing a statewide facility energy audit and advanced metering projects at priority facilities to provide a baseline that will drive future reductions in energy and water usage.
The National Guard partners closely with multiple state agencies with key staff serving on the Governor’s Greening Government Leadership Council, and, in addition, collaborates directly with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden to pilot energy conservation initiatives and test and validate innovative energy solutions.
“At the COARNG, we are not just meeting environmental regulatory requirements, we’re helping to establish those requirements,” said U.S. Army Col. Charles Beatty, Chief of Staff.