Air Force works to improve energy efficiency

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Richard A. Williams Jr.
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency
The vice chief of staff of the Air Force outlined service energy priorities during a keynote address at the 2011 Army-Air Force Energy Forum here July 20.

"The Air Force has developed an energy plan which concentrates on three pillars," Gen. Phil Breedlove said. "We are reducing demand, increasing supply and, probably as important as the first two, changing our usage culture."

Breedlove said the Air Force is seeking ways to gain assured access to efficient and sufficient supplies of energy, as well as reliable ways to deliver enough operational energy to meet needs in a secure manner.

The topic of operational energy covers a wide range of requirements, including the power used for training, sustaining and moving warfighters and equipment around the globe, the general said.

"This is a serious concern for the Air Force since we are the single largest consumer of energy in the United States federal government," Breedlove said.

Although energy needs decreased Air Force-wide in the last several years, the rising cost of energy and strains on the economy have outpaced any savings to Air Force spending, he said.

"Our push to reduce the demand and increase the supply of energy is a financial imperative," Breedlove said. "Even more importantly, energy efficiency will allow us to use these dollars elsewhere to provide combat capability for our nation."

The Air Force plans to use multiple ways to improve energy efficiencies and capabilities, some of which will be implemented as soon as fiscal 2012, according to Breedlove.

"These plans span the gamut, from changing how we plan our flights, how we maintain our aircraft, and even how we balance training between live flights and simulators," Breedlove said.

The Air Force has begun changing operational flight paths of some aircraft, to include flights across the polar ice caps, the general said. Such routes offer a shorter distance to destinations in Asia, decreasing travel time and saving on fuel usage.

Mission planners use computer software to calculate the most fuel-efficient trips, saving not only fuel costs also wear and tear on aircraft, Breedlove said.

"On the maintenance side of the house, we are instituting periodic washes of the inside the jet engines of our mobility fleet," he said. "Simply by removing excess dirt and grime in these engines, we are able to make the engines run cooler, which leads to millions fewer gallons of fuel consumed every year.

"Although each of these projects may give us a gain of only one percent on the year, when aggregated across the entire fleet, these changes can make an enormous impact on reducing our demand for energy," Breedlove added.

Along with efforts to operate more efficiently, the Air Force is looking at safe alternatives to the current JP-8 jet fuel used by current aircraft. According to Breedlove, the use of a 50/50 blend of synthetic fuel derived from byproducts like feed stock are acceptable alternatives to current fuel and would require no modifications to aircraft.

"Over 99 percent of the Air Force fleet is now certified to conduct unrestricted operations on this 50/50 blend of synthetic fuel and JP-8," Breedlove said. "We expect to be at 100 percent certification by the end of this year."

By 2016, the Air Force hopes to fuel 50 percent of its domestic missions using this blended fuel, he said. Currently, airlift, supersonic and aerial refueling missions have all been performed with this blend.

In addition to using alternative fuels, the Air Force is looking to install more fuel efficient engines on older C-130 aircraft; use more equipment with renewable energy power sources; and build on micro-grid technologies down range to improve efficiencies and reduce fuel consumption.

"We truly believe that by reducing our demand, increasing our supply and changing our energy culture, the Air Force can achieve both a higher level of efficiency and war fighting capability," Breedlove said.