There was great hope for federal support of alternative energy initiatives when the first Obama administration took over in 2009. Indeed, the prior administration was not a friend of the environmental movement. But, as an increasing awareness of the myriad problems posed by our continuing addiction to foreign oil and the existence and affects of global warming gained more currency, coupled with the appointment of a Nobel laureate, Dr. Steven Chu, to head the Department of Energy, hopes were raised that more effort would be made to secure a greener, energy-independent future.
In fact, the administration seemed to put its money where its mouth was when the emergency economic stimulus plan included billions for long-overdue energy programs. But for those of us who follow the flow of funding announcements, there has been a relative dearth of similar opportunities since that time. While the monies in the stimulus were well intentioned, no one can argue that our energy problems have been solved. Given the current budget impasse, more money for this or any other national priority is not likely to be forthcoming. But there are opportunities for funding alternative, green energy concerns. You just might have to look in some unusual places.
Take the military. A recent article in Mother Jones points out that those in charge of the U.S. Navy, for instance, realize that they will have great difficulty performing their duties in the not-too-distant future if their energy has to continue to come from foreign sources of oil and on dwindling worldwide supplies. The effects are already being felt by ships, which have had to travel increasingly farther to acquire fuel, stretching their supply lines and making it more difficult for them to accomplish their missions due to logistical complications.
In true fashion, the Navy has decided to combat these conditions and has targeted 2020 as the date by which their total energy consumption will come from alternative sources. They also intend to reduce fossil fuel consumption in their 50,000 vehicle commercial fleet by 2015 and will require that each of their bases (currently on 2.2 million acres of land with 65,000 buildings) be at least 50% self-powered by renewables—like solar, wind and wave energy—by 2020. In fact, they have already begun to implement some of these goals as, for example, through the deployment of the “Great Green Fleet,” a carrier strike group powered by the use of hybrid fuel and electric vehicles. This project has set a lofty goal of cutting petroleum use by naval vessels and vehicles in half.
Similar efforts are also already having battlefield success. In fact, the Navy’s Office of Naval Research and elements within the Marine Corps set-up an integrated planning team tasked with field-testing alternative energy solutions provided to them through private enterprise. They recently moved commercial alternative energy systems to Afghanistan. This allowed them to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels and batteries, while limiting the number of resupply convoys to remote locations. This, in turn, allowed the Marines to limit time spent in harm's way by minimizing their exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), thereby saving lives.
Where is the technology for both the fuel and the infrastructure, as well as parts and equipment, going to come from to achieve these lofty goals, especially when our government cannot agree on anything? From private enterprise, of course. The Navy and all the other military services has and will continue to issue requests for proposals, quotations and information for the delivery of alternative energy equipment and supplies, among other things (like this call from the Defense Logistics Agency for renewable energy certificates (RECs), Solicitation Number: SPE600-13-R-0405).
The Navy will also issue calls for grants from a standing budget (one that is safe from sequestration) in order to continue to fulfill their needs. So, while green concerns and the military may seem like strange bedfellows, enterprise will be well served looking to the various branches for solutions to some of the most pressing problems and for funding support going forward.
About the Author
David Lipten, Ph.D., has written winning federal grant proposals on behalf of a number of electric utilities, garnering nearly $40 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants, among other successes. He is based in Tallahassee, FL. Dr. Lipten is the owner/consultant at GrantWorks and can be reached at email@example.com.
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