Every October, the Department of the Air Force recognizes Energy Action Month to promote energy resilience and acknowledge the critical role energy plays in mission assurance. In the face of growing challenges posed by climate change and the recognized threat of physical and cyber-attacks on our enabling systems, finding innovative ways to bolster installation readiness through installation energy and water resilience is more important than ever.
“Secure and reliable access to installation energy enables the DAF to continue its operational and training missions and should be a top priority for all Airmen and Guardians,” explained Nancy Balkus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety, and Infrastructure. “Our installations enable Joint Force mission success around the world. By employing innovative energy solutions, diversifying our energy supply with alternative energy sources, and bolstering mission assurance we can Power Possibility and deliver air and space power – anytime, anywhere.”
The DAF strives to stay on the forefront of technology innovation and is always in search of new opportunities to further energy assurance. In October 2021, the DAF announced a first of its kind micro-reactor pilot program at Eielson Air Force Base. The next-generation energy technology is expected to provide the installation up to 5 megawatts (MW) of reliable clean energy to supplement current installation energy sources and will inform future resilience applications across the enterprise.
The DAF is also prioritizing alternative energy technologies that enhance mission assurance while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is incorporating climate adaptation and mitigation measures across its energy and infrastructure projects. For example, Eglin Air Force Base recently completed an energy resilience project that provides nearly 20% of Eglin’s electric consumption. The project includes 3.5 MW of renewable solar energy from two active-tracking arrays, and a new microgrid control system that can route energy to mission-critical assets in the event of a commercial outage. In fiscal year 2021, nearly 7% of DAF electricity came from renewable sources, and projects like Eglin’s will go a long way towards improving that percentage.
Securing installation resilience involves both energy and water management, as the two resources are inextricably linked. Installations across the enterprise are identifying ways to reduce water consumption and utilize tools and systems to better understand water availability and vulnerabilities. Nellis Air Force Base, for example, is utilizing robots to clean their vast solar arrays. Designed to be a less costly, greener alternative to manual cleaning methods, the battery powered robots glide over rows of panels while gently removing dust and dirt that can hinder panel performance. The robots not only use 90% less water than manual cleaning methods, but also enhance energy resilience by ensuring the panels can operate at full potential. Additionally, installations across the enterprise are utilizing the Installation Water Dashboard, an interactive data repository, to assess water vulnerabilities and prioritize investments that bolster resilience.
Through diverse projects, innovative energy planning, and investing in new energy and water solutions, the DAF is finding ways – large and small – to bolster mission capability, increase warfighter lethality and Power Possibility.
To help spread awareness of energy initiatives, visit: www.safie.hq.af.mil/EnergyActionMonth/ and follow the hashtag #PowerDAFPossibility at www.facebook.com/AirForceEnergy and www.twitter.com/AFEnergy.