SACRAMENTO, Calif. (April 1, 2013) -- Army and sustainability?

Using those two words in the same sentence several years ago would have probably been considered the punch line to a joke. But today, a military base that is both environmentally friendly and meets the needs of warfighters, is quickly becoming a reality.

Fort Hunter Liggett, with nearly 162,000 acres of forest, mountains and rivers, is located in Monterey County, Calif., and is one of several U.S. Army pilot installations selected to be net zero energy and net zero waste by 2020. This means the installation will create as much energy as it uses, and reuse and recover all of its waste products.

"The net zero initiative is going to provide energy security for this installation and it's also a priority for the Army," said Col. Donna Williams, garrison commander for Fort Hunter Liggett.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is leading the way in managing construction on major energy projects at Fort Hunter Liggett and is nearing completion on the second phase of four solar microgrids.

"Phase one of the solar project was completed last year and it's generating one megawatt of power. Phase two is going to add another one megawatt of power," said Bob Roy, project engineer with the Corps' Sacramento District.

One megawatt is enough energy to power up to 300 homes.

Phase two is scheduled to be operational by May 2013, and like phase one, will serve the dual purpose of providing a shaded carport for military vehicles as well.

"It's not very complicated and is a very simple conversion system," said Roy. "The panels absorb the sunlight energy; it gets transferred into an inverter system which immediately converts it to AC energy and generates the power."

Energy independence at Fort Hunter Liggett has both an environmental and tactical advantage.

"Prior to the installation of these solar projects, we were susceptible to power outages quite frequently," said Roy. "That interrupts the ability to train the troops indoors and outdoors."

In addition to Fort Hunter Liggett, the Corps of Engineers has a key role in helping the U.S. military meet its energy goals across the nation. The Corps is working with the Army and Air Force to develop 1 billion watts of renewable energy on installations by 2025, enough to power about 250,000 homes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers strives to protect, sustain, and improve the natural and man-made environment of our nation, and is committed to compliance with applicable environmental and energy statutes, regulations, and executive orders. Sustainability is not only part of the Corps' decision processes, but is also part of its culture.