Located just outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fort Bragg spans 500 square miles and is home to 54,000 active duty troops, including 10 percent of the U.S. Army. It is the home of the U.S. Army Forces Command, who are headquartered there. The base also houses airborne forces and special operations, including the 82nd Airborne Division and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. It is no wonder that Fort Bragg is called “the center of the military universe.” Fort Bragg is also located in the district of U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC08), an active clean energy supporter.
Like other military installations, the specialized units on Fort Bragg have incentive to find clean, renewable energy sources. As a matter of national security, it is vital that these units can operate during a power outage. The expansive size and large population of Fort Bragg also creates challenges to implementing clean energy projects. Instead of fields of solar panels or one large clean energy source, Fort Bragg promotes a diverse range of projects for increasing energy efficiency and establishing renewable energy sources.
“The biggest driving factors for Fort Bragg’s clean energy push is a desire to cut down on energy costs while also providing more security to the installation’s utility infrastructure.” says Audrey Oxendine, chief of energy and utilities on Fort Bragg.
In 2015, geothermal wells were installed in the historic district. The wells create power from heat under the Earth’s crust, and this energy source is available 365 days a year. The power generated can be used for heating and cooling buildings directly and is relatively inexpensive.
Other options are explored through the Department of Defense Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP). ESTCP partners private companies with the U.S. Army to test new energy sources.
Fort Bragg partnered with Robert Bosch, LLC to install a microgrid for the 82nd Airborne Division. The grid can function independently from the main power source on base to supply the division specifically with power during an outage. As a specialized airborne force, having an independent power source increases security for that infrastructure.
Another partnership used solar panels and microgrids to provide energy for the Hercules Fitness Center. The panels will eventually provide energy for the heating and air-conditioning system in the gym. These solar panels are particularly efficient because they do not convert energy and save 7 to 8 percent of energy that would be lost in conversion.
While there isn’t sufficient space to install a solar farm on base, panels are being installed on other buildings, including dining facilities and a parachute drying tower.
What other renewable energy sources are in store for Fort Bragg?
A hydroelectric turbine will produce hydroenergy for the base’s electrical systems in the future. The turbine comes with a $1.8 million price tag, but the promise of saving $2.7 million. Ideally, it will pay for itself in 14 years.
It’s clear that Fort Bragg’s partnership with private companies through ESTCP makes renewable energy projects more feasible in a way that government alone cannot. Continue to follow the Defense Spotlight series to see more examples of this approach across the country.