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Renewable Energy Future Planned For Academy, Academic Research

Academy Spirit Staff

Though it is located in the semi-arid desert of Colorado, Academy officials are eyeing "Green Energy Opportunities". "The ambitious effort involves reducing energy demand trends and evaluating and implementing alternate power technologies," said 10th Air Base Squadron's Russell Hume, who is spearheading the efforts. The Air Force spends $5 billion yearly on energy, 80 percent of which supports aviation operations, and is the largest energy consumer in the U.S. Government.

Permanent Professor and Head of the Academy Department of Economics and Geosciences Col. Rich Fullerton said, "Oil price shocks, like the post-Katrina spike to $147 per barrel, have been the leading cause of economic recessions in the U.S. over the last four decades. In the future, an increase in the frequency and amplitude of oil price shocks triggered by resource wars and market forces could have an even more ruinous effect on our nation's economy and the world. These factors have created a new imperative for the development of alternative energy technologies."

"These factors have prompted a goal for renewable energy to provide 100 percent of Academy electric needs by 2015, known as 'Net Zero,'" said Mr. Hume. Renewable energy is electricity, heat or other power generated from natural sources, such as the sun, wind, tides, and the heat trapped inside the Earth, all of which are naturally recharged. About 7 percent of U.S. energy consumption is renewable, and most of that comes from hydroelectric and the burning of wood.

A Congressional act calls for a 30-percent reduction in energy consumption by 2015, and a 100 percent reduction in fossil fuel (coal, oil, natural gas) generated energy by 2030.

Academy planners expect to achieve a 30-percent drop in energy consumption by implementing an aggressive conservation program and the planned reduction in base housing units. Among driving forces at the Academy are the reduction of 780 housing units by 2013, with the remaining 427 new dwellings expected to be more energy efficient.

"Our 1950s architecture has resulted in buildings that are strikingly beautiful, but not very energy efficient," said Chief Scientist and Director of Research for the Dean of Faculty Col. Rob Fredell. "Although it's easier to 'build green' with new construction, great opportunities exist to retrofit improved energy efficiency into our existing Academy buildings." Last year, the Academy electrical energy bill was about $6 million. The superintendent's goal is to generate as much electricity on site as the Academy consumes by 2015, from renewable sources.

"We're looking at potential renewable sources like solar and hydro power," Mr. Hume said. "There is possible use of refuse, wood waste, geothermal ground source and decentralizing hot water heating to remote areas like to the community center from the heat plant."

"A 2025 dream is for 100 percent energy offset by renewables, including transportation fuels, resulting in a zero carbon footprint for the Academy," Mr. Hume said.

Much more work remains in the future. Academy efforts are destined to influence world energy trends far beyond the installation.

A growing energy research effort will tap Academy expertise in aeronautics (for example, by designing winglets for drag reduction on the KC-135 aerial tanker), chemistry (hydrogen fuels and advanced lithium batteries for electric vehicles), biology (turning algae into jet fuel), and civil engineering (developing more efficient building designs that use less energy).

Colonel Fredell noted, "The Academy is uniquely positioned to set a green example for the world--we've got the ideal combination of research capability, alternative energy sources, and a desire to improve our mountain environment. Net Zero is only the beginning."


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