America's Future War Machine Will Be Fueled By This Secret Weapon

Source: The U.S. Army on Flickr.

America's military is investing billions of dollars to harness the power of the sun. However, instead of harvesting that energy for next-generation weaponry, it's doing so to fuel its fighting forces. That move is evidenced by the fact that solar represents 58% of the renewable energy capacity additions the Department of Defense has planned through 2017.

Why is the military going green?
The military's moves to go green are more about saving lives and money than about saving the environment. By going green, the Department of Defense can save some of the more than $20 billion it spends each year on energy as it consumes over five billion gallons of oil. Not only that, but it can save lives on the battlefield by cutting down on refueling convoys. In some years, one out of every 24 refueling missions sadly resulted in a U.S. casualty.

That said, the environment will clearly benefit from these moves. That's one reason President Obama is pushing an ambitious plan expected to cut the military's greenhouse-gas emissions by 28% by 2020. While that plan is leaving all options on the table, the numbers show a very compelling future for solar energy within the U.S. military. Because of that, investors should take a closer look at the industry, as solar has the potential to really brighten up their portfolio.

How to invest in solar
Traditionally, defense contractors like Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) were investors' only option to profit from the growth in military spending. However, when it comes to investing in the military's spending for solar power, there are a few more options these days, despite the fact that even Lockheed Martin is installing small-scale solar power systems on U.S. military bases.

Source: U.S. Army Environmental Command on Flickr.

One company that has worked with the U.S. military in the past is SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR  ) . In 2011, it completed a 6-MW project for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. The project provides 11% of the base's electricity needs, saving it a half million dollars each year, all while offsetting 9,400 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, which equals the removal of 40,900 cars from the road over the project's 25-year lifespan. That's in addition to the company's 14-MW project at the Naval Air Weapons Station in California. That project will save taxpayers $13 million over its 20-year lifespan as it provides the base 30% of its electricity. Because of its past successes with the military, we can expect SunPower to continue receiving military contracts in the future. 

Both of those projects are larger-scale projects that supply a portion of a base's power. However, an interesting future opportunity for the military is its investments in adding solar to military housing complexes. A compelling investment opportunity here is SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY  ) , which signed a five-year contract worth more than a billion dollars. As part of the contract, it will add solar panels to as many as 120,000 military housing units as part of the Solar Strong project. It is the largest residential solar project in American history.

Meanwhile, crowdfunding start-ups like Mosaic are also providing investors with the opportunity to invest directly in solar projects on a local level. One of its opportunities is to raise money for a 12.3-MW project that will add solar panels to 547 homes at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The project is expected to meet 30% of the electricity needs in the community as well as $1.3 million in annual energy costs.

Investor takeaway
The U.S. military is spending a lot of money to capture the power of the sun. As it does, it's creating opportunities for investors to profit alongside it as the military saves lives and money. Bottom line, solar's future is looking very bright as it becomes the new secret weapon to fuel America's military.

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Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 7:25 PM, entheogenius wrote:

    I was working on plans for a solar powered laser system back in the late 80's. I think every roof top in America should have some solar panels.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 9:04 PM, speculawyer wrote:

    The best way to invest in solar is to self-install your own roof-top solar system. Of course that takes some DIY skills but it is not that hard. It is not rocket science.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 9:13 PM, mvogell wrote:

    I didn't realize refueling bases in CA or houses in NJ caused so many casualties. Why nothing about how it might be used in the field as the title suggested?

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 9:24 PM, TMFmd19 wrote:

    @mvogell - I covered that subject a couple of weeks ago here: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/05/together-th...

    Matt

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 9:49 PM, Jim85035 wrote:

    Bad move, Bombs and solar panels do mix!

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 10:39 PM, metou wrote:

    well if you get in some jungle like vietnam , it can rain a long time with little sun, that would work better in the middle east. I would think they look into methane gas as a fuel source,. You have 150k to 200k soldiers in a place like nam making all that methane gas. they should figure out a faster process for converting it to usable gas and recycle waste into fuel.

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 12:20 AM, DevonShire123 wrote:

    Is that the same sun they are blocking us from, using geo-engineering, a process that also soft-kills the population? What a coincidence!

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 12:40 AM, wiserinvestor wrote:

    Hyper X Solar modules outperform over 100 of SunPower's solar module models with a better PTC to STC ratio and a heat busting -0.27%/degree C temperature coefficient rating. The best part is that a Hyper X Solar system is priced at nearly half the price of a SunPower system.

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 12:25 PM, SLTom992 wrote:

    You have to remember that in military actions there's no place to plug in your instruments etc. So using Solar Power isn't that bad an idea. However, to get any large quantity of power requires a large solar farm with is a perfect target.

    At present it is not a viable nor good idea for civilian power generation and the present solar panels cannot be improved. They are already converting the theoretical maximum amount of energy so it's unlikely that anything will improve on that front.

    Other means of renewable energy are good ideas depending on locations as well. Great Britain has a great deal of wind and otherwise small amounts of other energy resources. So wind farms there can generate large amounts of power.

    One of the things really bad about the so-called environmentalists is that they have no idea what the environment is actually like.

    I listened to some moron on radio talking about how paper bags were 100% renewable. What total ignorance! Are there going to be less paper bags cast upon the roadsides to dissolve in rain and wash into the ocean? And paper bags use up to 60 difference chemicals to manufacture or recycle some of which are deadly poisons. In comparison plastic bags were heaven sent.

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 1:13 PM, RicBarnett wrote:

    Not a big secret if it's posted on the WWW now is it? Fool!

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