Energy conservation: Everyone can make a difference

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mark McCloud
  • 62nd Civil Engineer Squadron commander
For those of you who have been serving the Air Force for any length of time, you're probably used to change. You've heard -- and probably used -- the phrase "flexibility is the key to air power" when faced with change. For those who are new to the Air Force, get used to it. It's who we are -- it sets us apart from other organizations. It is, and always has been a part of our culture and is something to be proud of. We don't change for change's sake; we do it for continuous improvement -- to make the Air Force a more efficient, productive and lethal force. Today the process of creating positive change is sometimes referred to as "transformation", or "smart ops". No matter what we call it, it is essential to our priorities of winning the war on terrorism, preparing for future conflicts and humanitarian missions, taking care of our Airmen and recapitalizing and modernizing our air, space and cyberspace systems. 

One area of smart ops the Air Force is aggressively pursuing is energy conservation. The Air Force spends more than $7 billion dollars a year on energy, such as fuel for our aircraft and ground vehicles and utilities to keep our facilities running. By improving our energy efficiency just a few percentage points each year, we can save thousands of dollars that can be re-directed to fight the Global War on Terror or the modernization of our aging fleet. Here are some examples of how the Air Force is leading the charge in energy conservation.

For the third year in a row, the Air Force heads the Environmental Protection Agency's list of Top 10 federal government green power purchasers. We also ranked number three on the EPA's Top 25 list, a group that includes government, private industry, trade associations, as well as colleges and universities. Green power purchases accelerate the development of new renewable energy capacity nationwide. 

The Air Force owns the largest solar power plant in the U.S. It's a 15-megawatt solar plant, made up of 70,000 solar panels and is located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. This new power plant will save Nellis approximately $1 million per year on its energy bill. This is truly the model for the rest of our nation. 

The Air Force is also a key contributor to alternative fuels research. Most of us have heard about the recent developments of alternative aircraft fuels, including the McChord C-17 Globemaster III that completed the first transcontinental flight using a blend of regular aviation and synthetic fuel. But did you know that the Air Force is also funding some cutting-edge biofuel research? We are investigating ways to produce large quantities of hydrogen gas using photosynthetic microbes, commonly known as algae and cyanobacteria. In large quantities, the hydrogen gas could function as a renewable, cheap and clean energy source for ground vehicles and power plants. 

So now that I've shared a few examples of how the Air Force is leading positive change in energy conservation, I'm sure you're thinking "So what can I do?" Well, everyone on Team McChord can contribute to our energy conservation efforts, both at work and at home. You could make sure you turn off the lights in your building when you are the last one to leave at night. Or you could be the one that places the cardboard in the recycling bin instead of the dumpster. Every little bit helps -- and if we all start making energy conservation a part of our day-to-day activities, it will benefit our entire Air Force and free up precious dollars for other critical programs. Thank you for your willingness to make positive changes that will undoubtedly make the Air Force better.