Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Sustainable Energy

The Department of Defense Wants to Double Down on Renewables

As clean energy and environmental protection look set to suffer under Trump’s budget cuts, at least the military will do its bit to reduce emissions.

Barack Obama takes a tour of solar power facilities at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

When you think of cutting-edge military technology, you probably picture vehicles, weapons, communications—perhaps even killer robots. But the Department of Defense would like renewable energy to be part of that list.

The military is no stranger to innovation, recently even taking a page out of Silicon Valley’s book. And over the past 10 years it’s been gradually increasing its adoption of renewable power, after it vowed to produce or procure 25 percent of all of its energy from clean sources.

Now Reuters reports that senior military officials intend to “forge ahead under the new administration with a decade-long effort to convert its fuel-hungry operations to renewable power.” That might be easier than ever, given President Trump’s recent promise to commit an extra $54 billion to defense spending.

At first blush, it also seemingly flies in the face of what the president likely thinks the money should be spent on to improve national security.

But military officials argue to Reuters that this shift to renewables isn’t really motivated by a desire to save the planet, but to make systems more efficient, safe, and robust. For instance, an Army facility running on renewables would be immune to grid attacks; a hybrid tank doesn’t need to stop to refuel as often; and in war zones a solar panel can’t explode like a tank of gas.

The news comes, of course, at a time when other federal organizations face funding cuts as a direct result of Trump’s desire to boost military spending. Both ARPA-E, which was set up to fund research into audacious new energy technologies, and the Environmental Protection Agency are bracing for massive upheaval—or potentially even closure.

It’s unlikely that the DoD’s investment will give rise to new clean energy technologies of the sort that might be kick-started by ARPA-E. But some military innovations do spill out into the public domain, and the scale of its investment will go some way to further pushing down the cost of renewables.

So at least a small slice of the funding cut from federal departments dedicated to saving the planet will be channeled toward renewables—whether it was the president’s intention or not.

(Read more: Reuters, “The Pentagon’s Innovation Experiment,” “The EPA Is Bracing for Big Change,” “Will ARPA-E Survive Trump’s Looming Budget Cuts?”)

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
Barack Obama takes a tour of solar power facilities at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.