Army, Air Force Mount Renewable Energy Push

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2012 — The Army and Air Force are com­mit­ted to devel­op­ing one bil­lion watts of renew­able ener­gy on their instal­la­tions by 2025, senior lead­ers from both ser­vices announced yes­ter­day.

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The plan marks the lat­est mile­stone in a mul­ti-year endeav­or to find ways to make the mil­i­tary more ener­gy effi­cient, said Kather­ine Ham­mack, assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Army for instal­la­tions, ener­gy and envi­ron­ment, and Ter­ry Yonkers, assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Air Force for instal­la­tions, envi­ron­ment and logis­tics.

One gigawatt, a unit of pow­er equal to one bil­lion watts, can pow­er about 250,000 homes, Ham­mack explained.

Ener­gy secu­ri­ty dri­ves the ini­tia­tives, Ham­mack said, adding that increased usage of renew­able ener­gy — such as solar pow­er — on mil­i­tary instal­la­tions would enable them to oper­ate even if local pow­er grids go down.

“Right now, the bases oper­ate off of a nation­wide elec­tric grid, which, as pop­u­la­tions grow, is get­ting aged and vul­ner­a­ble,” Ham­mack said. “This is a move toward dis­trib­uted ener­gy where you’re gen­er­at­ing [it] at the point of use.”

The Army Corps of Engi­neers will work with the two ser­vices to assess land and resources and to deter­mine ener­gy trans­mis­sion capa­bil­i­ties, Ham­mack said.

As the tech­nol­o­gy devel­ops, she said, renew­able ener­gy steps will include the instal­la­tion of solar pan­el­ing on mil­i­tary base build­ings and vehi­cle garages, and dual-usage of the pan­els as land buffers.

Bio­fu­els will be a behind-the-scenes game chang­er for the Air Force, accord­ing to Yonkers, who laud­ed the sem­i­nal research of alter­na­tive fuels at Wright-Pat­ter­son Air Force Base, Ohio.

“These bio­fu­els don’t pro­duce the kind of soot that con­ven­tion­al crude oil-derived fuels pro­duce,” Yonkers said, adding that this results in a cool­er-run­ning engine, which reduces met­al fatigue and increas­es engine life.

“If you can reduce the tem­per­a­ture in the com­bus­tion cham­ber of an engine by as lit­tle as a hun­dred degrees, you can get 10,000 hours or more on those parts that com­pose that engine,” Yonkers said.

As the Unit­ed States con­tin­ues to seek ways to reduce depen­den­cy on import­ed oil, bio­fu­els could play a large part in the tran­si­tion while reduc­ing the cost to tax­pay­ers, he said.

“Main­te­nance costs will go down sub­stan­tial­ly. We can keep those engines on[-line] much longer and the over­all cost of doing busi­ness with the Air Force goes down,” Yonkers said.

Pri­vate sec­tor financ­ing will be the linch­pin of the ser­vices’ ener­gy endeav­ors through pow­er pur­chase agree­ments, enhanced use leas­ing, ener­gy sav­ings per­for­mance con­tracts and util­i­ty ener­gy sav­ings con­tracts, Yonkers explained.

New sources of clean ener­gy will vary among instal­la­tions, he said, and will include solar, wind, bio­mass and geot­her­mal devel­op­ments.

The desired end result of these advances, Yonkers said, is to “reduce demand, increase sup­ply and change the cul­ture of how air­men and sol­diers con­sid­er ener­gy.”

The Army will host the Army-Air Force Ener­gy Forum July 12 in Arling­ton, Va.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)