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Carson to lead Army's effort to go green and get off grid

April 20, 2011

The Army in Colorado Springs is going green, Fort Carson commanders and the Pentagon said Wednesday.

The post was one of two in the nation selected as a pilot for “net zero” energy, water and waste programs, meaning Fort Carson, along with Fort Bliss, Texas, will be the Defense Department’s test-bed for electrical and water conservation and recycling programs.

The goal is to take Fort Carson off the grid over the next decade, with the post consuming as much water and electricity as it produces and sending no trash to landfills. While the post has made significant strides toward going green in recent years, how it will clear the “net zero” hurdle is being planned.

“There is no silver bullet,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, who announced the Fort Carson pick. “It takes a series of steps.”

Fort Carson has a two megawatt solar plant that powers houses on the post. The post says it gets 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Plans are under way for another 800 kilowatts of solar power to be built into new facilities including atop a parking canopy at a brigade headquarters building.

Other power generation ideas being studied for the post include a plant that would generate electricity from trees killed by bark beetles and a new type of solar plant that would use a dish to focus the sun’s energy.

Energy savings, though, will be just as important. Facilities built during the post’s ongoing $3 billion construction boom that began in 2005 have incorporated the latest in energy saving ideas, such as geothermal heat and advanced insulation.

While the post is aiming for environmental green, it still has an Army green job. And the new effort will be planned so it doesn’t interfere with wartime missions, said Brig. Gen. James Doty, Carson’s commander.

“Other than in their personal lives and the way we do things like recycling, it’s largely going to be transparent to the soldiers. They’re going to be able to continue to train and deploy and perform their mission.”

The post hopes to use nonpotable water to irrigate lawns and there’s a planned push to increase recycling.

Initial plans for making Fort Carson “net zero” are expected in June and commanders will update their progress to the Pentagon on a monthly basis.

Military bases in the Pikes Peak region have all aimed toward renewable energy and lower energy use in recent years. The Air Force Academy is constructing a solar plant near its airfield and plans to harness hydroelectric and wind power to generate more electricity that doesn’t require burning coal or natural gas.

The reasons for the military environmental movement aren’t all altruistic. Like any business in town, the Defense Department buys electricity to keep the lights on and planners think increasing generating capacity on bases will lower those bills.

The Pentagon has unveiled a plan to cut $78 billion in spending over five years and more cuts seem certain as Congress works to slim down a annual deficit estimated at $1.5 trillion.

“We will have a lower cost of operation,” Hammack said.

Call the writer: 636-0240

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