Battlefield Renewable Energy a Key Joint Force Enabler

By Adams, Roy H.,, III; Lindsey, Martin F. et al. | Joint Force Quarterly, April 2010 | Go to article overview
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Battlefield Renewable Energy a Key Joint Force Enabler


Adams, Roy H.,, III, Lindsey, Martin F., Marro, Anthony, Joint Force Quarterly


During joint operations or theater campaigns, any joint force commander (JFC), from joint task force to combatant commander, must deal with the enormous amount of energy the combined force needs for subsistence and operations. This situation becomes a limiting factor during all planning and execution across the Joint Operations Concept (JOpsC). To address this problem, many academic and governmental studies and programs focus on the research, development, testing, and procurement of renewable energy sources for the Department of Defense (DOD). However, there have been relatively few studies on the employment of renewable energy throughout the joint environment, especially outside of conventional combat operations.

For the scope of this article, renewable energy technology refers to already existing technological solutions that provide the joint force ready solutions to emerging problems and opportunities related to traditional energy consumption. Specifically, battlefield renewable energy (BRE) describes systems that generate electrical power through a variety of renewable means--most commonly solar, wind, and biomass conversion. Additionally, these systems must be deployable and sustainable throughout the range of military operations. The application of BRE throughout the JOpsC enables the JFC to decrease reliance on petroleum-based energy logistics and to build usable and sustainable host nation energy capacity.

Current Policies and Directives

U.S. public law, executive policies, and department directives govern the exploration and use of renewable energies. Specifically, two major types of documents provide the policy basis for the joint force to use renewable energy sources as key joint enablers. A series of Presidential orders, culminating with Executive Order 13423, "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management," directed departments to decrease fossil fuel consumption by 3 percent per year, or 30 percent by 2015 at Federal facilities. (1) While President George W. Bush exempted military operations in this policy, current battlefield trends demonstrate that a reduction of fossil fuel usage directly correlates to mission success. (2) The second series of documents, DOD directives, require Defense facilities, in various capacities, to reduce the use of fossil fuels while maximizing energy conservation and the use of renewable sources to reduce the overall cost of energy consumption throughout DOD. As a study of all these policies pointed out in 2007, there is a disconnect between consumption practices and strategic to operational goals related to the security environment.

Issues and Opportunities

In 2006, the commanding general of Multi-National Force-West (MNF-W) in Iraq described an urgent need to reduce reliance on traditional energy sources to power combat outpost and bases:

More than ever our operating forces rely on the use [of] electrical power to support critical command and control functions; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets; and life support services. To improve the security posture of the Al-Anbar Province of Iraq, MNF-W requires a renewable and self-sustainable energy solution to support forward operating bases, combat outposts throughout MNF-W's battlespace. (3)

Through analysis, MNF-W determined that most casualties occurred during the movement and delivery of fuel to the various combat outposts and bases throughout the division's area of operations. This Joint Urgent Operational Need (JUON) asked for a technological solution to power generation in order to reduce the amount of fossil fuel needed at these outposts. MNF-W concluded that if sources of renewable energy production decreased the need for traditional power generation, then fewer convoys would have to drive on long delivery routes, thus reducing the number of attacks and casualties. Additionally, MNF-W argued that the "addition of renewable and self-sustainable energy at the outlying bases will enable the Iraqis to operate independently, lessening the need for Coalition Forces to provide future logistics support.

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