Solar Power is a Force Multiplier for Us All

Nat Kreamer

Nat Kreamer is being honored as a Veteran Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security Champion of Change.

Tracer rounds from 50-caliber machine guns lit up the sky the night I landed at Baghdad International Airport. Like hundreds of thousands of Americans over three decades, I was in the Middle East, in uniform, carrying a gun to protect our national energy interests. A little over a year later I took off from Bagram Airfield, returned home, and co-founded SunRun to help American homeowners get their energy from clean, affordable, and domestic solar power. There’s nothing like a war with natural resource implications to kick-start passion and faith for renewable energy.

Our lifestyles cannot continue to subsidize foreign energy sources with more blood and more treasure. American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have and continue to make tremendous personal sacrifices to protect our national energy interests around the world. We have spent at least $7.3 trillion to defend our energy interests in the Persian Gulf alone over the last thirty years, according to research by Princeton University professor Robert J. Stern. To put this in perspective, $7.3 trillion equals approximately $23,000 per U.S. citizen. Imagine the last thirty years without two wars in the Gulf, with a healthier economy, and with a cleaner environment.

We owe our veterans and fellow citizens a way of life powered by clean, affordable, and domestic energy sources like solar. Fortunately, we are making progress. In the first three months of this year 82 percent of all new power generators built in the United States came from renewable energy sources. Every month around 10,000 Americans buy hybrid or electric cars. Every four minutes another solar system powers on in America. In many states a household can buy solar electricity for less than its current utility bill. A car that runs on solar is half as expensive to operate as one running on gasoline. Those simple home economics mean we may not have to spend the next thirty years fighting debt-financed foreign wars.

Our military is leading from the front. The military is putting solar electricity systems on the roofs of base buildings around the country. That solar electricity saves the military money it can invest in our national defense, and installing distributed solar electricity systems on military bases improves their defense by helping make bases self-sustaining and harder to attack.

U.S. military units in the field are starting to use solar panels to generate electricity to run combat systems. Those solar panels make our fighting units more effective by reducing their reliance on vulnerable supply chains and expensive over-land diesel fuel deliveries for generators. According to the U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, it costs the U.S. military approximately $50 per gallon for every gallon of diesel delivered to combat units in the field. An average solar panel costs approximately $150, creates as much energy as approximately 250 gallons of diesel fuel, and only has to be delivered once. Solar power is a force multiplier for us all.

Nat Kreamer served as a US Navy officer and in the US Special Forces in Afghanistan, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. Today he is the President and CEO of Clean Power Finance, and the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Solar Energy Industry Association.

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