The United States Department of Defense is currently on the prowl for technology that can allow alternative energy sources to be called upon in the event of a national emergency. Military bases currently have back-up power generators which use diesel fuel to power the grid in the event of a blackout. Although they get the job done in the short run, the DOD is currently exploring alternative energy sources that would not only be cheaper but would also provide better protection against potential cyber attacks, the New York Times reports.
This isn’t the first instance of the DOD making a foray into the alternative energy market. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 set goals for increasing their use of alternative energy sources–such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydrogen energy–to 5% in 2010 to 2012, and 7.5% in 2013 and beyond. More recently, however, a new project dubbed SPIDERS (Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security) will tap renewable energy sources for the security of our nation’s military bases. If the $42 million project is approved by Congress, the first base to receive the overhaul would be Marine Corps’ Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii.
The first and primary goal of SPIDERS would be to develop smart microgrids that would manage the generation and long-term storage of renewable energy. In the event of a natural disaster or massive cyber attack, alternative energy sources will be taken offline, but the reserves of alternative energy could be used to supplement or even replace the diesel generator. The microgrid would have the advantage of being independent of unexpected disruptions to the nation’s energy supply or sudden spikes in gas prices, making it a more reliable fail-safe in the event of a national disaster.
The Department of Defense’s increased reliance on alternative, renewable forms of energy may have a positive effect in matters other than national security. The DOD. which has earned a reputation for having little regard for the environmental consequences of its shoot-first-ask-questions-later military strategy (think Hiroshima, Agent Orange), benefits from the association with a form of energy that inflicts minimal harm on the environment. By the same token, people who haven’t paid much attention to the alternative energy movement, either dismissing it as unnecessary or rejecting it as impractical, may have second thoughts about their initial prejudices upon hearing of the DOD’s active interest in alternative energy, and for the purposes national security of all things.