Air Force, industry leaders brainstorm at Renewable Energy Industry Day

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
During the U.S. Air Force Renewable Energy Industry Day on December 8, Air Force senior leaders joined more than 250 industry professionals to exchange ideas about partnering to increase renewable energy supplies and achieve energy goals.

Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment, and logistics, urged a dialogue about the service's and industry's respective goals and capabilities.

He also stressed the day's intent to start removing barriers to renewable energy objectives and affirm the need for private sector involvement and investment.

To lay the groundwork for solicitation and evaluation of business proposals over the next several years, Mr. Yonkers cited Executive Order 13514, signed by President Barack Obama in October 2009, which called for federal agencies to increase the use of on-base renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gases.

He added that EO 13514 is one of several executive orders and statutes enacted over the past six years that address federal leadership concerning on-base renewable energy, reduction of greenhouse gases, the management of scarce resources, and ensuring water air quality and even recyclable waste are treated with due diligence.

"The Air Force is serious about renewable energy; we remain flexible and open to industry ideas and recommendations to start building projects," Mr. Yonkers said. "It's time to get on with the process of achieving the goals that the administration and others have laid out."

Mr. Yonkers said that over the summer, civic and Air Force senior leaders began the process of gathering possible renewable energy solutions and identifying viable industry partnerships. He stated the day's forthcoming conversations were evidence the Air Force is dedicated to meeting and exceeding its goals.

"We're reaching out to qualified companies able to propose designs, business plans, and renewable energy products to build on our bases," Mr. Yonkers said. "Your involvement as we implement the renewable energy game plan is absolutely critical as we continue to reduce energy demand, increase the available supply and change the culture of energy awareness in the Air Force."

With annual spending of about $7.5 billion on installation and operational energy, the Air Force requires an unwavering focus on ensuring the service better economizes while maintaining enough energy to complete the mission, Mr. Yonkers said.

According to Mr. Yonkers, the Air Force will need about 1,000 megawatts of electricity generated from renewable energy sources by 2025 to meet its goals, which equates to a requirement of about 60 to 70 commercial-scale renewable energy projects.

Industry professionals were also able to hear from a panel of Air Force energy experts including Dr. Kevin Geiss, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for energy; Ken Gray, from the Air Force facility energy center; Jeffrey Domm, from the Air Force real property agency; and Steven Sample, from Air Force operations for mission compatibility.

The sheer volume of necessary renewable energy projects will inevitably present challenges, such as storage, wind and turbine conflict and standby charges, Mr. Gray said.

"Energy storage is a significant problem," he said. "Nellis (AFB, Nev.), is wonderful if we have a lot of solar arrays, but it doesn't get us any electricity at night. The wind dies so we want to move to viable storage and we know there are some industry projects underway."

Recognizing photovoltaic panels, wind power and other renewable energy endeavors' need for space poses yet another obstacle, Mr. Domm said.

He encouraged industry leaders to explore enhanced-use leases as another resource in the Air Force's renewable energy toolkit.

The EUL is essentially a ground lease for non-excess installation property that may be under-utilized, Mr. Domm said.

"(The Air Force would) lease property to a private sector organization, and in lieu of money, in certain cases, receive in-kind consideration, renovations, or repair to include construction," Mr. Domm said. "In many cases, the best use for a parcel of land is an energy project, and the goal is to optimize the value of the land ... to optimize every square foot of property on an Air Force installation."

Mr. Yonkers concluded by saying that the Air Force and industry can expect a steady increase in green initiatives, as the service strives to standardize best practices in collaboration with the rest of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior and other organizations.

"As we gain momentum, (the goal of) 25 percent renewable energy will become 30, 30 will become 35 and eventually we're going to start moving into a really green economy based on this change," he said.