Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base flipped the switch on its first solar power installation in 2007, a 14-megawatt behemoth that was the largest of its kind at the time. The Air Force must have been pleased with the performance of solar energy in the three years since then, because according to Las Vegas Sun reporter Steve Kanigher serious consideration is being given to adding another 18 megawatts of solar energy to Nellis by the end of next year.
The U.S. Air Force and Solar Energy
The Air Force has a history with solar energy that goes back at least to the 1970′s, when the U.S. Air Force Academy installed a model solar house at its facility in Colorado. The idea of a solar house soon succumbed to the McMansion generation, but ironically a new three-megawatt solar installation is now planned for the Academy. Counting its new wind turbines and solar installations at other bases, the Air Force has become a top purchaser of alternative energy in the U.S., and it’s been eagerly pursuing jet biofuel for fighter planes. Among other innovative projects the Air Force is also developing a transportable solar array that can be tucked into a standard shipping container.
More Sustainable Energy for the U.S. Military
Kanigher reports that planning for the new array is still preliminary, but the prospects look good and he captures the money quote from Air Force engineer Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers: “Sustainable installations provide an operational advantage to our force.” That goes for all the branches of the armed services, which are rapidly turning away from the risks, expense, and logistical complications of fossil fuels. The Army, for example, is moving forward with new geothermal projects that will help take some of its bases off-grid in the near future.
More Sustainable Energy for Civilians, Too
Given the vast potential for alternative energy generation on military property, the Department of Defense is beginning to envision a future role for itself as a major supplier of secure, domestically produced, job-creating sustainable power to the civilian grid, in addition to supplying its own facilities. What was that about drill, baby, drill again?
h/t: movebeyondgreen.com, a “sustainable community of interest” sponsored by the Army Environmental Policy Institute.
Image: Nellis AFB Thunderbirds by Ken Lund on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.