Green technologies flourish at former Air Force bases

  • Published
  • By Air Force Real Property Agency Public Affairs Office
  • AFRPA / PA
The Air Force is going green in more ways than one. Through the use of natural techniques to clean up closed bases, the Air Force is turning those bases into environmentally friendly and energy efficient places to do business.

At the former Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Ill., the Air Force has moved away from traditional cleanup mechanisms to techniques that harness the power of nature to achieve successful environmental remediation.

Evapotranspiration sounds complicated, but at  Chanute it is quite simple - Poplar Trees. Environmental engineers at the former installation planted these trees around landfills located at the site, landfills that drain contaminates - known as leachate - into groundwater. The trees act as natural barriers and as a filtration system for the leachate.

"This approach eliminates a more traditional pump-and-treat system," said Travis Walker, an environmental engineer at the former Chanute AFB. "The trees absorb the leachate along with its contaminants, which later evaporate into the atmosphere."

Utilizing Poplar Trees to protect groundwater from contamination is environmentally friendly as opposed to invasive pump-and-treat systems; reduces energy consumption; expands the area's ecological habitat; and decreases maintenance costs.

Not only is the Air Force using alternative environment-friendly techniques at closed and realigned bases, but turning entire former installations into hubs of green activity. Former McClellan AFB, in Sacramento, Cal., which was once the largest industrial site in Northern California, is now a thriving eco-friendly business park attracting tenants such as Sun Edison and Renewable Energy Institute International.

The environmentally friendly facilities housing the tenants at the business park feature two million square feet of energy-efficient roofing; offers on-site concrete recycling; and uses electric-powered golf carts for grounds maintenance.

"McClellan and Chanute are just two of the many Air Force BRAC success stories gone green," said Robert M. Moore, Director of the Air Force Real Property Agency, which acquires, manages and disposes of Air Force-controlled real property worldwide. "We work tirelessly with our state, federal, regulatory, and community partners to bring these impressive, environmentally-attentive projects to fruition."

Since the first BRAC round of 1988, AFRPA's BRAC division has managed the remediation and transfer of more than 89% of all Air Force land, or more than 116 square miles - twice the size of Washington D.C. at 41 former installations to local communities for economic redevelopment.

For more information on the Air Force's BRAC program, please call 866-725-7617, visit our website at, or email