Thursday, April 9, 2009

April 2009 Update from Air Force's Energy Chief

Kevin Billings shared a few minutes today, responding to three status questions I had queued up for him on: 1) the synth fuel initiative, 2) adoption of energy metrics, and 3) the Air Force's take on smart and micro grids. Here, without much embellishment, are his updates:

1) Synthetic Fuels - Certification of USAF's current inventory to run on a 50/50 natural gas-derived fuel/J-P8 blend is on or ahead of schedule. Other details include:
  • More focus coming up on bio fuels
  • Will down select to 1 or 2 bio fuel blends and begin new engine cert process for them
In short, USAF will be ready for its 2016 goal of using 50% alternative fuels, and is thereby making a market for these fuels. But the big question is: will industry be ready to provide new fuels in sufficient quantities?

2) Energy Metrics - Alas, Billings noted that the Energy Efficiency KPP would have been used extensively in Future/Next Gen Long Range Bomber, which Secretary Gates just recommended for deletion. But he said that USAF's acquisition arm is taking the FBCF and Energy Efficiency KPP very seriously. (I should be able to report more on that in the future.)

3) Air Force Smart / Micro Grids - According to Billings, while still in embryonic stages, new grid technologies and processes are at the forefront of USAF thinking. The primary driver is mitigation of the risk posed by the brittle national grid. The task re the smart grid is to work with utility providers to coordinate and collaborate on bringing smart sensors and other energy management capabilities on base to capture savings. The micro grid concept applies when thinking about bases as power islands, being able to run their own critical mission systems during local or regional blackouts. One of the lead agencies he referenced is the civil engineering team, AFCESA, at Tyndall AFB in Florida.

A detail I especially liked was Billings referring to the towns that host USAF bases as "community partners." He's interested in seeing if, should local blackouts occur, USAF bases could provide surplus power for critical community services. Wouldn't that be something ... something great.

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