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Officials Call Energy Efficiency ‘Huge Priority’ for Air Force

By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2008 – As the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, the Air Force has made conserving resources a priority, officials said yesterday.

“We have to continue with our strategy of reducing demand and increasing [energy] supply and changing the culture within the Air Force,” Kevin Billings, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, told bloggers during a teleconference.

Billings said finding cheaper, more efficient energy remains a top priority, because the Air Force uses so much energy.

The Air Force is spending more time looking for best practices and collaborating with the other services in terms of how to move forward, Billings said. In addition to changing facilities management activities and aviation operations, he added, the Air Force now wants to address the general outlook airmen have toward conserving energy.

“Technology can provide us better aviation operation procedures and, certainly, more alternative energy and renewable energy resources,” Mike Aimone, assistant deputy chief of staff for logistics and installations, said. “But the culture can significantly reduce the demand for electricity if we, in fact, build this culture where airmen make energy a consideration.”

In addition to changing its energy conservation culture, the Air Force is exploring ways to use its land for energy sources, Billings said. For example, he said, the Air Force leased 140 acres of land at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., to developers to build 72,000 solar arrays that created 14 megawatts of clean, renewable energy for Nevada Power. As a result, he said, the Air Force received a 20-year reduction of $1 million per year off its energy bill.

The Air Force also has begun a significant effort to monitor how much petroleum is being used on its bases, Aimone said, initiating an audit to find out the best methods of satisfying energy needs besides putting convoys of petroleum products.

Another project is the ongoing application of insulating foam to worn-out tents in Iraq and Afghanistan. At one location, Aimone said, eight air conditioning units were needed to cool the tents before the foam was applied. Now, only three air conditioning units are needed, he said.

Looking forward, Billings said, the Air Force plans to research more opportunities to use wind and solar energy and to test different fuels for vehicles. However, he said, some of the more efficient fuels are more expensive.

“We’re not going to subsidize it in terms of paying a premium for the fuel, because we’ve got a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to fly our missions as cost-effectively as possible,” Billings explained.

While the Air Force will continue to search for more efficient energy, Billings said, it will not interfere with their overall mission.

“The No. 1 thing is providing our mission and making sure that we fulfill our mission … while developing energy resources -- whether they be wind, geothermal, solar or mineral resources under our land,” he said.

(Navy Seaman William Selby works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

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