It’s showtime for camelina, a modest, weedy little plant that has started to make a big splash in the biofuel world. The U.S. Air Force took camelina under its wing a couple of years ago and tested it out on the A-10C Thunderbolt II, and it must have done pretty well because for the first time ever a camelina based jet fuel has been used by the Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s official aerial demonstration team. The decision to use camelina for the Thunderbirds is significant because it underscores the U.S. military’s evolving mission of bringing new sustainable technology to the civilian world. Appropriately enough the first show with camelina took place for the Joint Services Open House last week at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
The U.S. Air Force and Sustainability
The Air Force summed up its role in the military sustainability mission quite nicely in a recent press release with a statement from the Thunderbirds’ lead pilot and commander, Lt. Col. Case Cunningham, who said, “The mission is to represent the pride, precision and professionalism of the nearly 700,000 Airmen of our Air Force — at the same time, we are showing the Air Force’s dedication to alternative fuel.” If anyone in the viewing audience has any lingering doubts about the performance potential of biofuels, a look at the Thunderbirds’ hair raising stunts ought to put that to rest.
The Thunderbirds and Nellis Air Force Base
The Thunderbirds are headquartered at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, suitably enough, because the facility has emerged as an early leader in the U.S. military’s shift away from fossil fuels. Nellis AFB installed its first solar panels back in 2007. The giant 14-megawatt installation was the largest of its kind at the time, and the base is considering installing another 18 megawatts. As a matter of fact, the Air Force has become one of the top purchasers of alternative energy in the U.S., and it is developing a portable solar power system that can be shipped overseas in a standard container.
- Successful F-22 Flight on 50% Camelina Biofuel as Military Obeys Executive Order to Reduce GHGs (cleantechnica.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+.