By Shannon Lawlor
In May 2022, the Department of Defense announced MCLB Albany as the first net zero energy installation. For the past decade, teams have worked tirelessly to reach this major energy-efficiency goal. The success of MCLB Albany has marked a much greater milestone in the implementation of the climate adaptation plan. This plan was released by the Department of Defense in 2021. But what comes next?

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Plans for Net Zero Energy

It’s no secret that the military uses a lot of energy that creates carbon emissions. The technology, machinery, and amount of power required to keep it running makes it incredibly difficult to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But the Department of Defense has plotted out a strategy to change this. The Army plans to adapt its installations so that they have net zero emissions by 2045. This decision to reduce emissions will have a major impact on climate change. We are already seeing the progress the Department of Defense has made in establishing net zero emissions installations with the recent success of MCLB Albany.

What Is Net Zero Energy?

Net zero energy means that the energy provided onsite is equal to the amount of energy used. It is a way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. But what is net zero energy building? Net zero energy building utilizes renewable energy generation to only use as much energy as what can be produced onsite over a certain period of time. This is a huge part of the military’s plans for their 2045 net zero goal.

Will There Be More Net Zero Military Bases?

MCLB Albany is the first net zero military base for the Department of Defense. The efforts to create a more eco-friendly establishment took a decade in the making, but they paid off. The establishment is now the first of hopefully many to achieve net zero energy emission. The milestone continues to help positively impact the base. They are saving money on energy and setting an example for future installations to follow. MCLB Albany exemplifies the success of more informed decision-making within the Army regarding climate change (a key stepping stone they laid out in their climate change adaptation plan). It illustrates the first milestone of many to come in response to climate change.

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So… What Now?

While MCLB Albany was the first installment to reach net zero energy, it isn’t the first base that began making climate-change-informed adaptations. In the past decade, there have been attempts and successes at creating more eco-friendly decisions. Fort Bliss in Texas and New Mexico created a solar project. They installed solar panels to begin saving energy. Similarly, Fort Hood planned to cut back on how much electricity they were using. The two bases began making these changes in the early 2010s. While they haven’t reached net zero energy emissions yet, it should be noted that they began these changes early on. Since then, there have been other bases that have included solar power in their installments. These include Fort Campbell in Kentucky and Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. Awareness seems to have been ramping up in recent years. Last year, there was a demonstration with a couple of Electric Light Reconnaissance Vehicles (eLRVs) in Fort Benning, Georgia. But without funding, it was difficult to see whether these would be implemented. Finances are one of the biggest issues when trying to adjust to changes that could help installments and the military reach net zero energy emissions. It also takes time to make the proper adjustments, as it isn’t a project that can be done overnight. Many also worry about how cutting back on certain emissions may result in a weakened military force; however, the Department of Defense has promised any adjustments will not affect the department's ability to protect the nation, as that is its number one priority. The most recent step forward with MCLB Albany’s accomplishment is a good sign. The net zero energy emission achieved at the base is hopefully just the first of many others to come.

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