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Rusty surplus military vehicles, leaking fuel tanks, unexploded ordnance.

Those are the environmental nightmares some people imagine when they think about the military and its installations.

But the New Jersey Army National Guard and the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs are turning that antiquated image on its head by using their facilities to become one of the Garden State's largest producers of clean, cheap renewable energy. The Department has four major solar projects completed, two more under construction and plans on the drawing board for a wind turbine. Oh, and the first of several of what will become a fleet of more than 70 allelectric cars begins arriving at DMAVA facilities in August.

In short, the guys in green have 'gone green' with an almost messianic fervor.

Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, The Adjutant General, says his department embraced alternative energy for many reasons -- and not all ones you might expect.

First, the most obvious.

"In this economic climate, saving tax dollars is a big driver," Rieth said.

And DMAVA's efforts amount to more than small change. So far, the Department's green efforts have saved more than $350,000 in utility costs since 2005. It's forecast the savings could be 10 times that during the next decade. And that's just for starters. At the current energy prices, DMAVA has the potential to earn more than $38 million under New Jersey's Solar Renewable Energy Certificate Program.

"We need to do this because it's the right thing to do," Rieth said.

The New Jersey National Guard wants to be in the forefront of a Pentagon initiative to safeguard installations critical to the nation's defense by moving them off the electrical grid, Rieth said.

To that end, the National Guard Training Center at Sea Girt is expected to become one of the first military installations in the nation to produce its own power and thereby insulate itself from power disruptions caused by mechanical failures and terrorist attacks.

As it is, 80 percent of the energy used at the headquarters building at Sea Girt comes from an array of solar panels that produce 240,000 kilowatts of electricity a year. A second array of panels expected to come on line within the next year will boost annual production there to nearly 750,000 kilowatts of electricity. That's enough electricity to power 70 homes for a year. Or eliminate enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over a decade as a grove of 13,000 trees. Or eliminate the equal amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere that 103 cars would produce in a year.

And that's only the beginning at Sea Girt.

DMAVA is currently conducting studies to determine any potential environmental impacts created by the installation of a 320-foot wind turbine. Funding for the $5.1 million project has already been approved by the Department of Defense.

The Department's first solar project in 2005 was an array of 952 photovoltaic panels that covers a portion of the National Guard's Join Training and Training and Training Development Center on Fort Dix. The project produces 281,000 kilowatt hours a year and saves taxpayers at least $35,000 in electric costs each year.

Within 30 years, those panels will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,000 tons. That's the equivalent of planting 590 acres of trees or not driving 5 million miles on the state's highways.

And speaking of driving, the New Jersey Army National Guard's next green acquisition will be a small fleet of 25 allelectric vehicles.

The first cars of a fleet that will ultimately number 70 are slated to arrive in August. They'll have a top speed of 35-miles-per-hour, room for two passengers as well as some light equipment and they'll be assigned to five National Guard facilities around the state. They will be perfect for local deliveries, maintenance crews and anyone who needs a quick way across some of the sprawling installations.

The best part of the cars? They can be charged directly from outlets in the parking lot solar structures.

Table of Contents
Volume 35 Number 1 Staff / Information
(c) 2010 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs