Wind of change sweeps over renewable energy sector

In the long-term interests of its soldiers, a US military base is turning itself into a knowledge hub on renewable energy.

Fort Benning military base in Georgia, United States, is blazing a trail with an innovative windmill. The US military has long been interested in renewables for bottom line and energy security reasons, and the Navy’s top brass frets that climate change-induced sea-level rise could impact naval installations. The Army has been quick to realize the operational advantages of renewables, as well as the importance of sound environmental practices for the health of its soldiers and the community at large.

Solar has been the military’s preferred source of renewable energy and Fort Benning already had a 30 MW array installed by 2016. But wind energy is where the jobs are these days, and Fort Benning now has turbines fully housed in low-rise structures: the innovation is that they are designed to run on the updraft from an air-conditioning system, not on ambient winds.

The Army is doing its bit to help turn soldiers who have finished active duty into sought-after technicians. The project at Fort Benning is part of a wider scheme to set active military personnel up with specific, in-demand career skills before they leave the Army, rather than discharging them without any solid prospects.

The US military’s biggest base on American soil has been drawing nearly half of its power from renewable energy since last year. Fort Hood, in Texas, has shifted from fossil fuels to wind- and solar-generated energy to shield the base from its dependence on outside sources. Its 63,000 solar panels, located on the base’s grounds, and 21 off-base wind turbines provide a total of some 65 megawatts of power.

Similar clean energy projects are popping up in unexpected places: last year, the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum converted to solar power to save money in the long term.

Meanwhile, the employment of solar photovoltaic installers is projected to grow 105 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

California commits to carbon-free energy by 2045

The state of California has passed a law committing to exclusively carbon-free electricity sources by 2045. By that date, all Californian electricity must come from carbon-free or renewable energy. Under the terms of the legislation, all utility companies must get 60 per cent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. It has become the second US state after Hawaii to commit to carbon-free energy.

This is a significant development because if it were an independent country, California would have the fifth largest economy in the world.

Renewable energy is expanding rapidly across the globe as costs come down and communities and governments understand its value. A few weeks ago, the world’s largest working offshore wind farm opened off the northwest coast of England in the United Kingdom.

Renewables are a key prong in the fight against climate change – a battle we are losing, according to UN Environment’s 2017 Emissions Gap report.

UN Environment works to promote low-carbon approaches, improve energy efficiency, and increase the use of renewable energy. It engages with non-state actors and seeks to increase partnerships with the private sector, in line with the objectives of Sustainable Energy for All and Sustainable Development Goal 7 on Energy and Goal 13 on Climate Change.

UN Environment