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Air Force officials tackle current, future energy needs

by Senior Master Sgt. David Byron
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

9/15/2011 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force officials have developed an Air Force energy program to support its multi-faceted mission to "Fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace."

This plan supports a stronger energy security posture that addresses the energy challenges of today and tomorrow while developing more reliable energy sources compatible with sustainability over the long term. The Air Force Energy Plan is a strategy outlining methods to reduce energy demand, increase its supply and change the Air Force culture regarding energy use. The plan focuses on three key areas: aviation, installations, and acquisition and technology.

"(The Air Force) is the largest user of energy in the federal government," said Dr. Kevin Geiss, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Energy at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics, during a media roundtable session Sept. 13. "Overall costs are about $8 billion (a year) for both electricity and fuel."

In the aviation area, which accounts for 84 percent of the Air Force energy bill, the focus has been on less costly, more sustainable fuel types, as well as aircraft configurations and flight operations, officials said.

"Our fuel costs have increased 225 percent over the last decade," Geiss said. "Most of that is due to the price of fuel."

Under the energy plan, half of the Air Force's fuel requirement will come from less-costly, domestically-sourced, alternative fuel blends by 2016. The alternative fuels include 50/50 blends of current JP-8 aviation fuel with either synthetic fuel produced via the Fischer-Tropsch process or "hydro-processed renewable jet" biomass-derived fuel.

"We've completed certification for all but one of our airframes on synthetic fuel," he said. "Our plan now is to complete certification of our fleet on bio-mass fuel by 2013."

Other recent innovations have included reducing aircraft weight by removing non-mission essential items and optimizing C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft centers of gravity to improve fuel efficiency during flight, officials said. Standard flight speeds and coordination of more fuel-efficient flight paths with other countries have also helped to reduce fuel consumption.

In the installations area, Air Force officials have focused on several methods to not only reduce energy consumption, Geiss said, but also reduce reliance on energy from
outside sources.

"We project our power from our installations," he explained. "It's not just a matter of ensuring our dining facilities and dorms have power, there are actual, real missions that occur on our installations. We are very focused on ensuring we have the power to continue those missions in light of the potential vulnerabilities of the power supplies that we have."

The Air Force is investing nearly $85 million during the next five years to construct more than a dozen on-base renewable energy sources that are economically and technically feasible, officials said. Projects include solar, wind and landfill gas powered systems.

Current Air Force construction projects incorporate new and efficient green, cool or reflective roof technologies, the officials said. New buildings must also meet energy and design certification requirements. The energy approach for the acquisition and technology area focuses on setting requirements for future weapon systems.

"Whenever we talk about new weapon systems, there's the purchase price, then there's the sustainment cost," he said. "Energy can be a huge part of those sustainment costs, not only in operations but in the maintenance and logistics that support it."

In addition to alternative fuel options, the plan requires developers to consider fuel-efficient engines, aircraft design and the use of advanced lightweight composites and green materials to increase fuel efficiency and productivity, officials said.

"Our vision is to make energy a consideration in all we do," Geiss said.

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