(WHAS11) - Solar panels and wind turbines are becoming as familiar on army posts as the American flag.
The department of defense is the single largest energy consumer in the United States and it's looking for ways to save money.
Defense officials say they consider embracing alternative energy a cost-saving measure, but also a national security imperative and the research they do could become a catalyst for the rest of us in bringing green energy in our daily lives.
As Meteorologist Jamie Martin shows us in this week's "Project Green," Fort Knox is on the cutting edge of some of these experiments.
Brad Abele is part of the Fort Knox 'energy team' from his computer in a small office on the army post, he's a sort of master control monitoring the temperature in 300 buidlings. The post-wide system has helped decrease Ft. Knox energy consumption nearly 36%.
“We can shut buildings off when there's no occupants in the building. We have the ability to limit temperature ranges, to keep it really in an efficient range," said Abele.
“We weren't controlling the humidity properly with old systems and we weren't controlling outside air properly with the old systems. Now, with the new systems, we're doing both, so we've actually improved the health of the building,” said Pat Walsh.
Ft. Knox has become an award-winning testing ground for green initiatives that officials say trims their carbon "bootprint,' but also trims their bottom line.
Solar panels, energy-efficient housing developments, and geothermal heating and cooling systems save about $10 million a year in utility bills.
“Any reductions you can have in paying utility bills goes to either improving buildings or in the army's case, better preparing soldiers for war, so they look at this as a war-fighting effort. “ says Walsh.
“We've got to become independent and find ways to warm ourselves, to feed ourselves, to cool ourselves.” said Sgt. Major Jihad Ali.
Ft. Knox has invested nearly $220 million in energy efficiency upgrades since 1996 -- exploring ways to produce their own power and be less dependent on foreign oil.
“I don't think we use any fuel here on Ft. Knox any longer, for heating purposes, so we've reduced that need, so we've reduced our need for foreign fuel sources. “ Walsh said.
The ultimate goal is for Fort Knox to become a sort of 'energy island' producing power from its own solar, thermal, and nuclear energy sources.
“We've established a reputation here that we don't want to stop. People look to us to blaze a trail and we're happy to do that.
Fort knox will get its first electric-powered vehicles in January.
The vehicles are part of an initiative the army announced in January 2009 to lease 4000 electric vehicles for use on bases around the world like go-carts, they go about 35 miles an hour. They will only be used on post.