The U.S. Army Fort Drum military reservation, located in Jefferson County in Upstate New York, is one of the most impressive and unique military facilities in the country. Deep in the North Country, rugged conditions and temperatures that can drop to 30 below zero making it an ideal training ground for specialized training for fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions. It is home to one of the most deployed units in the Army, the 10th Mountain Division, and it is responsible for the planning and support for the mobilization and training of almost 80,000 troops annually.
Those are all fantastic reasons to celebrate Fort Drum; but as clean energy advocates, the facility caught our attention because it boasts one of the most unique energy projects in the military, a 60-megawatt biomass power plant.
If you’re not very familiar with biomass energy, it uses natural organic waste (typically logging residue) to generate carbon-neutral electricity. This material would otherwise be dumped in landfills, openly burned, or left to fuel forest fires. Another key benefit is avoiding the decay of woody materials, which naturally results in carbon and methane emissions. Therefore, using organic waste as feedstock for a biomass power plant and converting it into energy has a net effect of reducing emissions.
For more about biomass energy, visit the website of our friends at the Biomass Power Association.
As far as the Army is concerned, however, the primary benefit for biomass is national security. Biomass is a low-cost energy source that provides 100 percent of Fort Drum’s electricity needs through a behind-the-fence direct interconnection, which ensures access to reliable and renewable electricity even in the event of a grid outage.
It’s also another great example of an effective public-private partnership to drive energy innovation. Local green power company ReEnergy was competitively selected in February of 2014 and has a contract with Fort Drum to provide electricity for a 20-year period from a renewable source.
In addition to the Army’s needs, the biomass power plant is part of a strategy to achieve New York State’s ambitious goal to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Fort Drum further supports clean energy by participating in Solar Ready Vets, a national program to connect transitioning military personnel with solar training and employment opportunities.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), a Member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee and a CRES Clean Energy Champion, has been a crucial backer of the installation on Capitol Hill, working to protect it from cuts and helping defeat an amendment that would have prevented the Pentagon from relying on alternative energy sources (including biomass) unless they met certain conditions. This year, she is once again putting in a tremendous effort to ensure Fort Drum receives the support it needs in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Stay tuned for additional posts highlighting our military and defense industry’s commitment to clean energy.