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Innovation

Lockheed Martin explores uncharted territory in sustainability

Two years into its corporate sustainability program, the technology giant has made strides in reducing water consumption and managing waste-to-landfills but the path to energy efficiency will take longer.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Advanced technology giant Lockheed Martin -- with more than $44 billion in 2009 sales from continuing operations -- is one of those companies that you would expect to have a twofold approach to working toward a smart planet: That is, by the virtue of its sheer size, you would expect it to be focused on how it can adapt its operations to embrace more sustainable practices. And, because of the business Lockheed Martin is in -- everything from aeronautics to security to space exploration technologies -- it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess that Lockheed-Martin sees revenue in the smart planet movement.

And, indeed, this is so. Consider Lockheed Martin's bid in mid-November to become part of the next phase of the Space Fence project, a program that will reshape the way that the U.S. Air Force finds, IDs and tracks objects in the earth's atmosphere. The existing surveillance system has been in place since the early 1960s, and the total contract for the new one -- which aims to provide better "space situational awareness" would be worth $3.5 billion over time.

Naturally, though, there is plenty that Lockheed Martin can do to get its own house in order. That was the focus of my recent interview with David Constable, vice president of corporate energy, environment, safety and health. Constable oversees the company's Go Green, launched in 2008, which has adopted a 25 percent absolute reduction goal in three key areas: carbon dioxide emissions, waste to landfills, and water usage. Those goals, targeted for 2012, use 2007 levels as their baseline.

"The message I always try to make clear is that this is not just for the tree hugger, it makes business sense," he says.

Constable says the company has already met its waste reduction goals, and has cut water consumption by 24 percent. But improving energy efficiency, he admits, has been a more difficult journey.

But, here's what it has accomplished so far: Between 2007 through July 2010, Lockheed Martin reduced absolute carbon emissions by 9 percent, which included the purchase of renewable energy credits. For perspective, while its reduction might not seem that large on a percentage basis, Lockheed Martin's renewable energy purchase rank it as No. 39 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership National Top 50 list. Overall, Lockheed Martin is purchasing approximately 98.1 million kilowatt hours of solar and wind energy annually, which is approximately 5 percent of its overall electricity use.

Moving forward, Constable is calling on a combination of employee initiative and new technology to help accelerate the company's progress on the energy efficiency front: "We are not going to solve today's problems with the solutions of yesterday. Innovation in behavior and the technologies we can use to deploy these strategies are both very important."

Here are some examples of things that Lockheed Martin has done AND is doing to suit its own needs:

  • 19 buildings have achieved some level of certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program; another 20 or so are in the registration process; and any new construction must conform to at least the Silver standard.
  • Aggressively updating its lighting technology -- which accounts for almost 40 percent of electricity used -- is a big ongoing initiative. In Constable's mind, if your building's lighting technology is more than four years old, it is likely that your company is throwing money out the door from excess energy consumption. "Right now, our buildings are very stupid," he says.
  • From a renewable energy standpoint, Lockheed Martin's Oswego, N.Y., facility (pictured) -- which is 1.8 million square feet -- is running on biomass for its heating and process needs. In Moorestown, N.J., waste is being diverted to a waste-to-energy facility. By the way, the technology being used there is Lockheed Martin's own, and it is being parlayed into projects for its clients.
  • Videoconferencing and collaboration technology has been a major investment for the company, even when the products weren't actually ready for prime time. Now, Constable describes the systems as "really amazingly good" and says they have contributed to a major reduction in corporate, as well as changes to project workflows and business processes that have effected efficiencies elsewhere.

And here are two technologies with which Lockheed Martin may touch the corporate sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives of other companies and public sector organizations.

Ocean thermal energy: The process works by using the temperature differences between surface and deeper water to help generate power. (For those scuba divers among my readers, think thermoclines.) Military bases and communities in tropical regions near the ocean are ideal candidates for this technology, which has been in the works since the 1970s.

Solar energy: Lockheed Marin has a concentrated solar test bed in Moorestown, N.J., (left) and it also is testing photovoltaic technology at the same facility. The company could play a role in both utility-scale and commercial projects as the renewable energy frontier becomes more settled.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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