11/30/2010 05:45 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fort Sumter First on the Frontlines, Again

Almost 150 years ago, Confederate troops in South Carolina fired the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, leading to the bloodiest period in American history. Today Fort Sumter National Monument is taking the first shot at ushering in a new era of energy independence through collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Interior (DOI), the National Park Service, South Carolina Research Authority, and the Center for Hydrogen Research. Their collaborative efforts are designed to take the island off the electric utility grid, and make it completely self-sufficient.

Initial feasibility studies and cost estimates will be the team's first step. Although funding is not complete at this point, the plan is for the island to be installed with a hydrogen-fuel cell backup power system and solar energy generation.

Behind the project is Energy SmartParks, a partnership formed by the DOE, DOI and the National Park Service, whose objective is to showcase sustainable energy practices in national parks to "inspire a green energy future for America."

All in all, the Fort Sumter development makes a nice story in terms of experimentation with green and sustainable technologies. However, the message of this story goes much deeper. In terms of sustainable energy practices, we're a nation at a crossroads, with serious decisions that need to be made now. Whether or not man made greenhouse gas exists and how it is impacting the environment is irrelevant to this discussion. The safety of our country is paramount and goes hand in hand with the issue of energy independence. Time and time again, we hear in the media that many of the countries from which we import oil from are simply not our friends and that many of them fund groups that want to hurt us and destroy our way of life.

Fort Sumter symbolizes a time when the United States literally came apart at the seams, and so many perished as a result. It now has the opportunity to become a symbol of aligned interests and a secure future.

Jonathan A. Schein is CEO, ScheinMedia, publisher of