Green Energy Initiatives by Defence Forces

(Abridged version published in SP’s Military Year Book 2017)

“Unleashing war fighters from the tether of fuel and reducing our military installations’ dependence on a costly and potentially fragile power grid will not simply enhance the environment; it will significantly improve our mission effectiveness.”

Dorothy Robyn, former deputy undersecretary of defense, in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, May 20, 2010.[1]


Military fuel consumption studies have highlighted various issues afflicting an assured supply of fuel to forces during extended operations especially in regions far away from the country of origin. Fuel is procured from agencies near to the operational areas to reduce the logistic supply chain. This is however subject to prevailing prices and fluctuations from time to time. It makes it difficult to make budgetary provisions for this essential commodity. In addition to the cost of transportation, attacks on the convoys carrying fuel are also a common feature in areas like Afghanistan and Iraq, this leads to loss of essential fuel supplies as well as combat manpower.These problems have a cascading effect on mobility of heavy military equipment as well as battle command stations, so much so that the logistic chain has to be put in place prior to the move to ensure operability of the equipment.

NATO[2] has brought out that the fact that; its forces consumed up to 4 gallons for transporting each gallon of fuel to Afghanistan; about   3000 US soldiers were killed /wounded from 2003 to 2007 in attacks on fuel and water convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan; and that there is one casualty for every 24 fuel re-supply convoys to Afghanistan. In a military camp, about 60/70% of fuel is used to produce electricity to heat/cool water or air. Further, a conventional diesel generator is able to convert only one third of its input energy in to electricity with the remaining being lost as heat. The U.S. military had begun to reduce its dependence upon fossil fuels proactively by 2010. It commenced development, evaluation, and deployment of renewable energy sources to decrease its carbon footprint.

The US Secretary of Defense delivered the review of the Department of Defense (DOD) strategy and priorities to Congress on March 4,2014 vide the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review[3] (QDR).This included the affect of   rebalance to Asia upon force structure, weapons systems, platforms, and operations. The highlights were,  “Positioning additional forward-deployed naval forces to achieve faster response times at a lower recurring cost; Deploying new combinations of ships, aviation assets, and crisis response forces that allow for more flexible and tailored support to the regional Combatant Command; Developing concepts, posture and presence options, and supporting infrastructure to exploit the Department’s investment in advanced capabilities; and Pursuing access agreements that provide additional strategic and operational flexibility in case of crisis” .  It was evident that the shift would imply requirement of additional logistic arrangements in the fuel provisioning chain. It has been estimated that the Asia-Pacific shift would entail an eleven percent additional operational fuel demand on the US DOD.

The European Defence Agency, EDA, has launched the ‘Military Green’ initiative. It has been estab­lished by six countries namely, Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, and Luxembourg. The project visualizes access rights to rooftops and land in military premises being offered to the market for electricity production using photovoltaic technology. The electricity produced would supply the defense locations as well as feed the surplus green energy to the local grid.

NATO constituted a “Smart Energy Team” (SENT), which examined national and NATO documents and visited defense agencies to identify energy efficient solutions for incorporation into NATO’s standards and best practices. The team concluded that ‘Reducing fuel consumption in the military is an operational imperative. Smart Energy solutions cannot only save money when less fuel is used, but can also save soldier’s lives, and help improve the mobility, as well as the resilience and endurance of military forces’[4].

Thus, it can be seen that it became imperative for the major defense forces to give impetus to adoption of renewable energy sources in their routine as well as operational deployments.

Green Energy Generation Options to Defense Forces

Green Energy options that are available to defense forces depending upon their geographical locations include a combination of the following:

Solar Energy. Solar energy is being utilized by the forces to reduce load on traditional generators. Solar energy can be generated using both fixed and portable solar systems to provide a clean source of energy especially at remote locations. This also helps in reducing the number of costly and at times dangerous fuel re-supply missions. With the rapidly reducing costs of PV cells, the rates of solar power are highly competitive. Further, since the PV cells are much lighter they can be easily carried on the backpacks in battlefield.

Biomass. Developments in Biomass have resulted in corn-based ethanol and soybean or canola based biodiesel. Lately, however there is shift away from food crops for generating fuel towards use of lignocelluloses feed stocks and energy crops that can be grown on wastelands. The biomass to liquids (BTL) includes synthetic fuels derived thermo-chemically via biomass gasification and cellulosic ethanol produced biochemically. The production of Fischer-Tropsch liquids (FTL)[5] from biomass is considered advantageous over cellulosic ethanol.

Fuel Cells. Fuel cells are one of the most efficient techniques for power generation and an alternate to petroleum. They can function on a number of different fuel sources like biogas, hydrogen, or natural gas. They also provide scalable advantage from megawatts down to a watt, which enable meeting a large variety of applications for the forces. They can power transportation systems on land and sea, provide power in remote areas, act as power backups, assist in distributed power, and so on. The byproducts of fuel cells are water and heat since they directly convert chemical energy in hydrogen to electricity. They are also highly efficient with conversion in the range of ~60%, which is nearly twice that of conventional sources.

Waste to Energy. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) can be converted to energy in three ways, namely, pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion. These processes are differentiated by the ratio of oxygen supplied to the thermal process divided by oxygen required for complete combustion. It has been observed that a localized approach to generating energy from waste is beneficial as compared to a large facility located miles away. This helps in reducing the overall carbon footprint as well as facilities that do not look out of place.

Hydropower. Investments in small hydropower systems reduce the exposure to fuels considerably. Intelligently sited and planned systems assure clean and reliable energy over the years.

Marine Renewable Energy. A large source of renewable energy is presented by the oceans, in form of wind driven waves on the coast, ocean currents, ebbing and flowing tidal currents through inlets and estuaries, river currents, offshore wind energy and ocean thermal systems. All of these can be utilized for power generation by the forces.

Geothermal Power. It provides a number of advantages like, it is non-interruptible, it is cleaner, it is an established technology, and is abundant. This is a highly suitable energy source for land-based establishments that have access to it.

Initiatives by Defence Forces

“Today’s war fighters require more energy than at any time in the past and that requirement is not likely to decline,” he explained. “During World War II, supporting one Soldier on the battlefield took one gallon of fuel per day. Today, we use over 22 gallons per day, per Soldier.”

General Martin E. Dempsey

The US Department of Defense (DOD) published its 2011 Operational Energy Strategy, which, laid down the overall guidelines for armed forces to pursue in respect of energy. The US Military has set up the goals of reduction in energy consumption, enhancing energy efficiency across platforms, enhancing usage of renewable/ alternative energy supplies and assuring energy sufficiency. To meet the desired goals, DOD has to look at deploying clean low carbon technologies at its establishments as well as increased renewable energy generation through solar, waste to energy, wind power, geothermal and other sources. In addition the DOD has to comply with a number of energy policies and executive orders that govern the DOD, these include:

-The National Energy Conservation Policy Act, 1978. It lays the foundation for energy management by US agencies.

– The Energy Policy Act of 2005. It laid down requirements and authorizations for:

-Metering of suitable federal buildings by the beginning of fiscal 2012.

– Energy-efficient product procurement.

-Use of energy saving performance contracts through fiscal 2016.

-Federal building standards that exceed by at least 30 percent industry standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

-Renewable electricity consumption for federal agencies to increase to at least 3 percent of facility electricity consumption for fiscal 2007-09; 5 percent for fiscal 2010-12; and 7.5 percent thereafter.

-Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It amended the National Energy Conservation Policy Act to require agencies to improve energy intensity. It expanded authority to facilitate use of energy saving performance contracts.

-National Defense Authorization Act 2007. It codified US DOD’s goal of securing 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025.

In addition to the above, executive orders issued by the president of the United States that are applicable to US DOD energy efforts include:

-Executive Order 13423, Jan 24, 2007, requires federal agencies to, reduce energy intensity 3 percent annually, and ensure that at least half the renewable energy requirement established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 comes from new energy sources.

-Executive Order 13514, Oct. 5, 2009, requires federal agencies to, establish a senior sustainability officer, and submit an annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan to the Council on Environmental Quality between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2021. Further, it is to be ensured that new federal buildings designed in 2020 or later are ‘net zero for energy’ by 2030.

The US Army has decided to have five installations meet net-zero energy goals by 2020 and have 25 establishments achieve net-zero energy by 2030. To cut fossil fuel Army is increasingly deploying hybrid and electric vehicles.

The US Navy has set the goals of energy efficient acquisitions, sailing the Great Green fleet by 2016, reducing the non-tactical petroleum use by 50 % by 2015, producing 50% of shore based energy from alternate sources, making 50 % installations net-zero by 2020, and lastly, ensuring that by 2020, 50% of its total energy requirements would be met from alternate energy sources.

The Great Green Fleet Initiative of the US Navy. The Great Green Fleet is a demonstrator of the strategic and tactical viability of bio fuels. A strike group has embarked on a yearlong deployment in West Pacific in January 2016. The strike group (JCSSG) consists of USS John C. Stennis with Carrier Air Wing (CVW-9) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 embarked, guided-missile cruiser Mobile Bay and guided missile destroyers Chung-Hoon, Stockdale, and William P. Lawrence. CVW-9 consists of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14; Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133; Fleet Logistics Combat Support Squadron (VRC) 30, Detachment 4 and Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 151, 97, 41 and 14[6]. The JCSSG is using alternate fuel (10 percent beef tallow and 90 percent marine diesel) and incorporating energy conservation measures. The Great Green Fleet initiative also includes use of energy efficient systems and operating procedures like changing of lights to solid-state lighting, temperature control initiative, installation of stern flaps to reduce drag etc.

The US Air Force has decided to reduce overall energy demands, increase energy supply through alternate/ renewable energy sources, and meet the “End State Goals” of DOD by 2030. These include, that bases meet Air Force energy security criteria while optimizing the mix of on‐base and off‐base generation, that aircraft fly on alternative fuel blends, that Forward Operating Bases be capable of operating on renewable energy & optimizing energy utilization. It is also testing different “Hydro treated Renewable Jet” (HRJ) fuels which comprise of bio-fuels and jet fuels in order to have 50% of its aviation fuel from alternative blends by 2016. In addition, the US Air Force is seeking to have better energy efficiency engines for its aircraft in future.

In July this year, the US Army and Air Force have come together to change all their sources of electricity to clean and renewable energy. As per Air Force News Service “The Army and Air Force have identified energy resilience as a critical objective, advancing the capability for their systems… to respond to… unexpected disruptions,” …”Now, both offices will share support staff, business processes, and best practices.”[7]

Indian Armed Forces

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of the Indian Defence Forces and associated establishments the Government of India has initiated considerable efforts under phase-II/III of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission JNNSM. It includes setting up over 300 MW of Grid-Connected Solar PV Power Projects by Defence Establishments under Ministry of Defence and Para Military Forces with Viability Gap Funding under JNNSM. As per the annual report of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for the year 2014-2015[8], some of the salient features of the scheme include:

-A capacity of 300 MW to be set up in various Establishments of Ministry of Defence with the minimum size of the project to be one MW. The defence establishments would identify locations for developing solar projects, anywhere in the country including border areas from time to time. The projects under this Scheme will mandatorily use solar cells/modules, which are made in India. The Defence organizations/Establishments will be free to own the power projects i.e. get an Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) contractor to build the project for them or get a developer who makes the investment and supplies power at a fixed tariff of Rs.5.50 per unit for 25 years. The MoD or the Defence Organization would be free to follow their own procurement systems or develop detailed guidelines or procedures for tendering.

-Inter-Ministerial group has recommended National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) Support of Rs. 750 cr.

Indian Army’s quest for green fuels has led to research into algal biomass, which is considered to be one of the best emerging sources of sustainable energy. The algal biomass can be conveniently cultivated in a matter of days at military detachments and used to produce bio-fuel for use in military vehicles. Nine DRDO labs are currently carrying out research on microalgae for extraction of bio fuels[9].

Indian Navy has completed two years of its Green Initiatives Program on World Environment Day in 2016. Navy has undertaken a large number of green measures to reduce its overall carbon footprint. An Energy and Environment Cell[10] at Naval Headquarters has been created to monitor the implementation of the green energy programs. The Navy has initiated efforts to go green in ship designs as well as its operations. It also carries out mass awareness drives in its dockyards, and shore establishments to sensitize the personnel to energy conservation.

The Navy has set a target of 21 MW Solar PV installation[11],  in line with the National Mission of Mega Watt to Giga Watt towards achieving 100 GW Solar PV installations by 2022. Navy has also pledged 1.5 per cent of its Works budget towards Renewable Energy generation. Navy is exploring the feasibility of exploiting Ocean Thermal Energy and Wave Energy as sources of green energy.

Moving Towards Smart Energy

In almost all developing and developed countries, electric industry is moving away from a centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is more consumer-interactive and less centralized. Smart Grid is a term for a functional system, which utilizes modern communication technologies with monitoring & control systems to make the electric grid more efficient. A more advanced grid utilizes information technology for processing data and allows utilities to perform grid operations. Smart grid systems also help consumers to use their energy needs in a better way[12]. In India for instance, the transmission losses are one of the highest in the world, in addition India grapples with unpredictable energy sources feeding the grid[13], it is therefore necessary to have a grid that is highly adaptive, in other words, a smart grid.

Some features of smart grid include[14]:

-Advanced Metering Infrastructure, AMI, it utilizes smart meters, communications networks for transmitting meter data, and management systems for receiving, storing, and processing the data.

-Grid modernization by deploying sensors, communications, and control technologies for efficient grid operations. Smart distribution technologies to help locate and identify defects, and carry out effective monitoring for the equipment.

– Transmission system modernization using digital equipment for monitoring and controlling operations throughout the transmission grid. It uses Synchrophasor technology, with phasor measurement units (PMUs) for measuring instantaneous voltage, current, and frequency.

– Virtual power plants, which allow discrete energy resources (DERs) to feed the electricity grid constantly and reliably.

-Micro grids, which are clusters of local DERs and loads connected in such a way that an operation is possible within the grid or in an independent mode.

The smart grid however, comes with its own challenges in terms of bandwidth and cyber security. Each application of the smart grid requires a combination of communication technologies for handling its own bandwidth and latency[15] needs. Currently, secure interoperable networks are being designed which would provide adequate cyber security.

The defense forces have taken a proactive approach to meet their energy requirements of the future with emphasis upon green energy initiatives and sensitivity to the conservation of the natural environment. The aspects of national security and energy security of the nation have also been carefully blended in the quest for going green. However, as the defense forces are also interdependent upon the civil power sources, the grids being designed would have to be smart enough to cater to distributed energy sources with two way power flows, smart management & generation of energy, cyber protection, band width management, and handling of variable power generated from renewable sources.

[1] House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness (statement of Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense) (March 29, 2012), (Accessed 21 Jul 2016).

[2] (Accessed 23 Jul 2016)

[3] (Accessed 29 Jul 2016)


[5] James T. Bartis &Lawrence Van Bibber, Alternative Fuels for Military Applications, 2011, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica.

[6] (Accessed 19 Jul 2016)

[7] (Accessed 24 Jul 2016).





[12] US department of Energy, 2014 Smart Grid System Report, Report to Congress, August 2014.

[13] Navneet Gupta and Apurav Jain, Smart Grids in India, Renewable Energy,  – Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, August 2011.

[14] 12 ibid.

[15] Network latency is an expression of how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another.