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US Air Force Trains For Combat On Wind Power

Here’s yet another example of the US military’s transition to a safer, more agile fuel profile. The US Air Force has just embarked on a wind power demonstration at a remote monitoring station used for combat training exercises in Alaska. The goal is to eliminate the need for airborne fuel drops during hazardous flying conditions.

The monitoring stations are refueled by helicopter every September and March, with March being the month that the Air Force would like to avoid. The expectation is that the wind turbines will provide enough auxiliary power to shift the March fuel drop all the way into June.

Aside from offering a less hazardous flying schedule, the wind turbines are expected to yield a return on investment in just one year.

The Air Force wind power demo comes under the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO), which is up to its neck in all kinds of clean energy projects, so now would be a good time to catch up with them.

Air Force will use wind power for combat training.

Combat exercise courtesy of US Air Force via pan.li75.

Wind Power Test For The US Air Force

The unmanned, remote stations are used to monitor and control a training exercise called Red Flag Alaska Operations.

For the wind power demo, the Air Force selected a site near the Yukon River with the “harshest weather conditions,” and picked out small wind turbines capable of withstanding “extreme arctic conditions.”

Aside from proving that the turbines will provide enough power and reliability to achieve the June goal, the demo will include a full slate of real-time data through a satellite feed:

The demonstration will provide proof-of-concept as well as data regarding site conditions and failure mechanisms. The site will be remotely monitored to include data on ice, temperature, wind, humidity, and vibration sensors as well as camera feeds of the turbines.

Meanwhile, the Air Force also plans on testing a fuel cell at another location accessible by road, with a similar goal of diversifying its fuel profile to achieve optimal efficiency in arctic conditions.

The US Air Force And Clean Tech

With that in mind, here’s the overall APTO goal for the US Air Force in a nutshell:

…to provide increased capabilities and benefits to the Warfighter/Customer, support the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF’s) Environmental and Energy policy requirements and reduce dependency on foreign energy sources with the insertion of Advanced Power Technology.

If you don’t see any space for petroleum products in that statement, that’s no accident. APTO states that it is “bridging an energy transition from an oil-based economy to new energy economy for the Air Force.”


Speaking of the Air Force’s policy requirements, APTO also states that it is:

…committed to integrating technologies that are cleaner, lighter, and multifunctional, with more efficient fuel consumption. This includes the reduction of pollutants, the advancement of fuel efficiency and the improvement of the environment.

Aside from the wind and stationary fuel cell demos, APTO is currently involved in a laundry list of sustainable energy projects including numerous fuel cell vehicle projects, waste-to-energy, electric drive vehicles, and two of our favorites, a “smart” microgrid and a system for generating hydrogen for fuel cells, powered by wind and solar.

That’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Air Force and sustainable energy. Among many other projects, its sprawling bases have been early adopters of large scale solar power installations as well as rooftop solar on residential units and other buildings, and its jets are testing out new biofuels (including a biofuel developed by the company Virent in partnership with the Coca-Cola company, of all things).

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Written By

Tina 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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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