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Air Force Pilots New Solar Power Storage System

In yet another demonstration of the US military’s transition to renewable energy, the Air Force Research Laboratory is eyeballing a computer center in Hawaii to demonstrate an advanced system for collecting, storing and using solar power. The aim is to show that solar power can contribute to a seamless energy management system for a sensitive, high-demand facility. If the pilot project is successful, it could be implemented at other Department of Defense facilities worldwide and make its way into the civilian sector as well.

The Air Force Advanced Energy Storage and Management System

The brains behind the new Advanced Energy Storage and Management System (AESM) is the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Power Technology Office. If that name rings a bell, the office is also the driver behind another forward-looking renewable energy project we covered earlier this month, which involves using on site wind turbines to avoid rough-weather fuel drops at a remote monitoring station in Alaska.

Air Force moves ahead with solar energy storage system.

Proposed AESM system courtesy of US Air Force.

The proposed AESM will be installed at the Air Force’s Maui High Performance Computing Center, which is managed by the University of Hawaii (note: as of September 2013, UH was still the manager and has been disputing recent assignment of the contract to an out-of-state company).

Based on a rendering of the project, it appears that AESM will include roof mounted solar panels over part of the facility’s parking lot, forming a solar carport. The system is also capable of integrating wind power as well as grid-supplied power and power from on site generators.

In addition to their use in solar power generation, solar carports provide a sustainability twofer by helping to reduce wear and tear on vehicles that would otherwise be parked in the open, and by helping to reduce the amount of fuel used to cool the interior.

The project is currently in the technology selection phase. Once everything is installed and the go button is pushed, the demonstration period is expected to last up to two years.

More Renewable Energy For Hawaii

Of all the 50 states, Hawaii is the most vulnerable when it comes to fossil fuel dependency and it is also the site of key Department of Defense facilities, notably Pearl Harbor, so the state’s transition to locally harvested fuels is a vital national defense issue as well as a boost for consumers and businesses beset by high fossil fuel costs. In that context it’s little wonder that Hawaii was chosen as the shakedown site for the new AESM system.

AESM also dovetails with another solar project the computer center is pursuing, the Maui Solar Initiative. This will consist of a proposed 1.5-megawatt, 13-acre solar farm located nearby. Aside from reducing fossil fuel dependency in Hawaii, the project is expected to save big bucks for the Air Force, which according to hpcwire.com currently foots the center’s annual electricity bill of more than $3 million.


As for the Department of Defense, AESM is just one among a flood of military-backed renewable and advanced energy projects in Hawaii. The Navy alone just pumped $30 million into a statewide clean tech initiative called the Energy Excelerator.

Among the military’s many other projects on Hawaii are a grid-connected wave power demonstration, a fuel cell vehicle fleet initiative in partnership with GM, and even a full scale rainwater harvesting system to help address Hawaii’s shrinking prospects for rainfall in the future.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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