Into the Wild Blue goes the Greener Air Force

While some are debating the utility of an independent Air Force today, they’re going green and striving for a zero carbon footprint. From Danger Room:

North America’s largest solar energy plant just went online.  Not at some hippie commune or some high-minded company, looking to get into Al Gore’s good graces.  But at Nellis Air Force Base, just outside of Las Vegas.  The 140-acre, 15-megawatt plant is expected to save the base and the surrounding community about a million bucks a year.  And it’s just the “first step in a new initiative to host private alternative energy producers on its bases across the country,” according to Inside the Air Force.

“We are using that [Nellis plant] as step one in a multi-step process to start attracting alternative energy users to Air Force bases. We would act as a host for alternative energy projects. We wouldn’t build them, we wouldn’t operate them, we wouldn’t finance them, but we would provide the land and we provide the ability to sell affordable power to a big user,” William Anderson — assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics — told reporters…

“We think that we can get ourselves very close to a zero carbon footprint,” he said…

The Air Force already has a 2.7 megawatt wind farm that provides 4,600 megawatt hours of electricity per year at its facility on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic and a 1.3 megawatt wind farm at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, WY, that provides enough energy to power approximately 520 households… Several smaller solar arrays are also operating at Fresno Air National Guard Base, CA, and Luke Air Force Base, AZ.

The service also is using geothermal- and biomass-generated power at bases in Utah, Nebraska and Missouri.

To the alt-energy array, the Air Force is thinking about adding a controversial component: nuclear power.

If built, the first “facility would be a small test plant, used to investigate the feasibility of powering military installations with nuclear energy,” according to a separate Inside the Air Force story.

The Air Force’s interest in atomic energy began after members of several congressional energy committees wrote the service asking it to consider using nuclear power.

“We’ve gotten several requests from members of Congress, which have evolved out of their knowledge of the Air Force leaning forward on energy initiatives, asking the Air Force to take a look, just to consider . . . whether an Air Force base might be an appropriate host, or test bed if you will, for a small nuclear facility,” said Anderson. “Nuclear power is being discussed much more seriously than before.”

However, such a program is in its infancy. Anderson described the time frame for the discussion, planning and construction of any nuclear facility as long-term.. For the near future, the service is simply looking into whether the industrial capability and technology even exists to build a plant small enough to fit on a base, he said.

“The answer might be nothing” fits, Anderson said. “The reality is that nuclear is being discussed in the [United States] in much more significant ways than it has before and we’re just trying to figure out if we fit” in the discussion.

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