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West Point seeks to produce all its own energy

Dec. 11, 2013 - 11:24AM   |  
West Point is now seeking public comments on its 346-page draft plan, 'United States Army Garrison West Point Net Zero Energy Initiative.'
West Point is now seeking public comments on its 346-page draft plan, 'United States Army Garrison West Point Net Zero Energy Initiative.' (Peter Carr/The Journal News)
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WHITE PLAINS — Along with “Go Army!” and “Beat Navy!” commonly heard sayings at the U.S. Military Academy may soon come to include “Shut off the lights!”

The two former mottos are geared toward the annual football face-off between West Point and the rival U.S. Naval Academy. The latter could be part of a different challenge: West Point’s effort to produce as much energy on-site as it uses in a year.

The venerable institution overlooking the Hudson River was one of nine military programs chosen by the Army in 2011 to be part of a pilot project focused on conservation.

The academy is now seeking public comments on its 346-page draft plan, “United States Army Garrison West Point Net Zero Energy Initiative.”

The document outlines how the 211-year-old academy could produce, reduce and conserve energy. Plans include harnessing solar power for electricity, heating and hot water and using the Hudson River for cooling needs.

The aim is for West Point and other Army bases to rely on renewable energy. But it’s also meshing energy security with troop security.

“Currently, the Army faces significant threats to its energy requirements both home and abroad. Addressing energy security and sustainability is operationally necessary, financially prudent, and essential to mission accomplishment,” the academy explained in the report.

What’s good for the troops is good for the environment, said Kit Kennedy, an environmental lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The group worked with the Department of Defense on guidelines about siting large renewable-energy projects on or near land owned or used by the military.

The military is the “largest purchaser of energy” in the country and can strongly influence how clean energy is used throughout the U.S, Kennedy said.

“I think it’s really significant,” she said of West Point’s plan. “The military is making these efforts to move forward on energy efficiency.”

Andy Chmar, who graduated from West Point in 1977 and is executive director of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust in Garrison, said the military was investing in its future.

“When you see the blackouts caused by weather and grid failures, they can’t afford to be offline,” he said.

West Point officials declined repeated requests for an interview to discuss their conservation efforts.

The academy already has a wind turbine and rooftop solar array at its recycling center and another array atop its indoor training center.

New construction must meet high energy-efficiency standards.

“If they can demonstrate this is possible, there’s no reason municipalities and other consumers of electricity can’t embrace this,” Chmar said.

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