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The Air Force Can Be a Clean Power Partner

The Air Force can play a major role in helping the United States once again become the global leader in solar energy.

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The Air Force has the greatest need to boost energy efficiency and renewables use because it is the single largest consumer of both petroleum-based fuels and facility energy in the country. It recognizes this need and is starting to move forward. In 2008 it released its Infrastructure Energy Strategic Plan, which goes beyond the scope of the DoD-wide ECIP and uses smart energy policies to guide improvements in current and future infrastructure, to expand renewable energy, and to manage costs.

The IESP sets specific goals for the Air Force, including:

  • Reduce energy infrastructure costs 20 percent by 2020.
  • Reduce facility energy intensity (the amount of energy required for each unit of output or activity) by 3 percent per year through 2015.
  • Reduce base water use by 2 percent per year through 2015.
  • Increase use of renewable energy by annual targets (3 percent, 5 percent, 7.5 percent, and 25 percent) through 2025.
  • Reduce ground vehicle fuel use by 2 percent per year through 2015.
  • Increase alternative fuel use by 10 percent per year through 2015.

The Air Force can play a major role in helping the United States once again become the global leader in solar energy. By the end of 2008 the global market for solar photovoltaic energy had increased by 110 percent, by 5.95 gigawatts. The United States is the third largest market with 6 percent, yet it lags far behind Spain and Germany, which respectively comprise 41 and 31 percent of the global market for solar energy. Even though solar photovoltaic technology was first developed in the United States, President Ronald Reagan slashed support for the nascent technology in the 1980s. In 1996, the U.S. had 45 percent of the world market share of PV. It dropped to 10 percent in 2005. The Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program for low-carbon energy projects provides federal assistance to solar energy companies that could otherwise fall victim to the financial crisis, but much could be done to expand solar and the Air Force can be a big help. Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and Hangar 25 in California offer innovations that other bases can emulate.

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