Wald: DoD alternative energy use "just at beginning"

Friday - 1/14/2011, 8:58am EST

General Charles Wald

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This piece from Wired's Danger Room blog piqued my interest on how the military is using alternative energy sources, and the logistics and acquisition challenges involved in getting those sources deployed:

Helmand Province in Afghanistan isn't the most obvious proving ground for a green-energy project. But a Marine company that shipped out to war armed with solar panels says it cut down on its generators' fuel consumption by nearly 90 percent. That might just get the rest of the military to note that you can battle insurgents and carbon footprints at the same time.

The Humvee-transportable panels might be green, but they had a distinct tactical use: power up Marine operations while cutting back on the amount of fuel resupply that insurgents can target. The system hadn't been used in a war before, so it was an open question how well it would perform.

For answers, to my questions, I turned to General Charles Wald, now with Deloitte, an expert in alternative energy in the military.

"We're just at the beginning of a major shift in how we approach energy, and how we use energy, and how we build our capabilities to fight with," General Wald said. "The acquisition regulations now require fuel...to be one of the competitive issues that have to be put into the contract. That alone, from the standpoint of how contractors are going to approach competing on systems, will make a big change."

The focus of alternative energy for many years was on the ecological advantages, but General Wald told me that's changing.

"I think also the United States in general realizes now that clean energy is not only a compelling issue for the climate, but it's also an economic and a global competitiveness issue, and there's a business case to be made," he told me.

We also discussed the tactical advantages of having to transport less energy into combat zones. You can hear the entire conversation by clicking on the audio link.