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Going Green

nellis solar farm.jpg
A few years ago a Los Angeles-based firm called SolarReserve had what they thought was a great alternative energy idea: A field of mirrors directs sunlight toward a tower filled with salt. The salt heats up to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit and then flows down to a container where the heat is used to drive turbines that can power upwards of 50,000 homes.

Naturally such a device would need to be built where the sun shines a lot. And, ideally, it wouldn’t take up space in a populated area or harm wildlife.

Hey, how about the Nevada desert? At a glance that makes sense, except once you start to move on the idea you realize that “Nevada desert” is synonymous with “Nellis Air Force Base Range Complex.”

And among military ranges, Nellis is as mysterious as they come, even for the military aviators who’ve flown around there. (“The Box” — rumored to be where nuke testing goes on — notoriously lurks adjacent to regular operating areas. Troll into it and you’ll lose your first-born not to mention your wings.)

So it’s little surprise that after originally warming to the idea, the Air Force has balked at having the project on home turf. After all, who wants a bunch of green-minded brainiacs from LA (where they worship the devil — very un-USAF) arcing around your ‘hood, even if your ‘hood is in the middle of nowhere?

Read the entire article here.

(Photo: SolarReserve artist’s rendering photo)

– Ward

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From this morning’s Military​.com front page:

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. — On a wind-swept air base near the Missouri River, the Air Force has launched an ambitious plan to wean itself from foreign oil by turning to a new and unlikely source: coal.

The Air Force wants to build at its Malmstrom base in central Montana the first piece of what it hopes will be a nationwide network of facilities that would convert domestic coal into cleaner-burning synthetic fuel.

Air Force officials said the plants could help neutralize a national security threat by tapping into the country’s abundant coal reserves. And by offering itself as a partner in the Malmstrom plant, the Air Force hopes to prod Wall Street investors — nervous over coal’s role in climate change — to sink money into similar plants nationwide.

[Continue reading…]

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My boy Gordon Lubold with the Christian Science Monitor has a
great story on the latest feat for greenies in Blue…

The US Air Force is experimenting with a synthetic fuel that could become a cheaper fuel-alternative for the entire US military and even commercial aviation, officials say.

As the cost of a barrel of oil approaches $100 and US reliance on foreign oil sources grows, the Air Force, the single biggest user of energy in the US government, wants to find a cheaper alternative. Air Force officials think they may have found it in a fuel that blends the normal JP-8 fuel, currently used for the military’s jet engines, with a synthetic fuel made from natural gas and liquid coal.

The 50–50 blend is less expensive between $40 to $75 per barrel and it burns cleaner than normal fuel. The synthetic fuel is purchased from US-based suppliers and then blended with the military’s JP-8 fuel.

“We’re making sure the Air Force is ahead of the curve so we can utilize this domestic resource instead of having to be both dependent on foreign sources and send dollars offshore instead of spending the dollars here in the US,” says Kevin Billings, a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force helping to oversee the initiative.

Last week, on the 104th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, the Air Force flew a C-17 Globemaster III from Washington state to New Jersey, the first transcontinental flight using the synthetic fuel. The flight was an attempt to demonstrate that pilots could fly the plane, considered a “workhorse” of the Air Force fleet, using “syn-fuel” without degrading the performance of the plane’s engine.

The service hopes to have all its planes certified to run on the fuel within the next five years. And by 2016, the Air Force hopes to meet half their US demand for fuel using the synthetic blend, first used in the 1920s, but further developed during World War II.

So can we call the Air Force “tree huggers?” Or are they just pennie pinchers? Whatever…seems to me their experiments could have serious positive consequences for civilian air travelers like us.

– Christian

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