Air Force officials discuss training, energy compatibility at Nevada Forum

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  • By Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The undersecretary of the Air Force and representatives from government, industry and the Department of Defense kicked off the three-day Nevada Forum here Aug. 24 to brainstorm ideal ways to blend military missions with renewable energy projects.

Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin C. Conaton, the service's senior energy official, said the forum's main purpose is to facilitate an open dialog between stakeholders on how to achieve safe, compatible, renewable energy development while ensuring military operations and training are not impeded.

"We're trying to find out about these projects early and partner with industry to identify issues and ways to mitigate them," Ms. Conaton said. "We know that renewable energy and military effectiveness are compatible efforts."

Ms. Conaton explained that burgeoning private sector development now outpaces the Air Force's ability to review the impacts of these projects on the service's readiness and the mission. She added that the forum is critical to developing processes among state, federal, local and industry leaders to give more regularity and predictability to energy development initiatives.

Nevada Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki noted not only the state's ties with federal government agencies and the military, but said Nevada is "at the epicenter" for energy production, research and development.

"Nevada's renewable energy prospects are truly profound," Mr. Krolicki said. "Today, Nevada is the number one producer of both solar and geothermal energy per capita in the United States, and we take great pride in that, (though) we have barely started."

He added that the 12,000 square miles of airspace above nearly 3 million acres of the Nevada Test and Training range offer the Air Force a unique environment for munitions and air combat training.

At the same time, of the 400 companies looking to open for business in Nevada, half of them are related to the renewable energy sectors, he said.

Ms. Conaton acknowledged the economic and security impacts stemming from the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and the subsequent need for energy solutions.

"We're proud of the fact that the United States, as a nation, is adding wind farms faster than any other country in the world," Ms. Conaton said."Here in the Air Force, we're trying to do the same, by developing as many renewable energy sources at our bases as possible ... to reduce our energy demand."

Senior Air Force officials said members at bases across the nation have been working with energy developers to identify where wind energy generating facilities are compatible with local missions.

"The Air Force has more than 30 renewable energy projects under development at various air bases and we expect to double that over the next few years," said Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the of Air Force for installation, environment and logistics.

He added that the Air Force is primed to reach its goal of using 30 percent renewable energy by 2025.

Ms. Conaton noted several success stories at various bases, such as three wind turbines helping to power F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and a solar field that currently produces 21 percent of the electrical needs at Toledo Air National Guard Base, Ohio.

She added that Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., home to one of the largest solar arrays in North America, "is leading the way," producing enough power to meet 25 percent of the base's energy needs.

"We think these projects benefit all of us -- the local community, industry, as well as the military," Ms. Conaton said. "Every dollar that we don't spend on fossil fuels is a dollar that we're able to contribute to the readiness of our force and programs that benefit servicemembers and their families."

As industry continues to grow along the landscape of renewable energy, the service can't lose sight of the mission to train Airmen to be ready to deploy whenever and wherever they are needed, Mr. Yonkers said.

"We need to ensure that our training mission is compatible with our energy initiatives and that we work collectively and collaboratively with the other agencies of government, developers, civic leaders and others as we move toward a stronger renewable energy economy," he said.