The Air Force’s mission is to fly, fight, and win … in air, space, and cyberspace. This is a mission that relies heavily on energy and electricity.
The Air Force is by far the largest consumer of energy and fuel within the Armed Services, and the Air Force’s mission is slowly becoming jeopardized as energy becomes more expensive. The Air Force clearly understands that sustainability is crucial for its long term success and continual dominance. For the Air Force, going green isn’t just good for the planet; it’s good for national security.
Luke Air Force Base has bills to pay; it gets its electricity from APS, and even submits themselves to manipulative time-of-use programs to save a little coin, just like residential customers do. With an annual electric bill up to around $5.7 million — thanks to ongoing utility rate hikes —Luke AFB is a big energy consumer. Any energy efficiency measures put into effect by the base will mean big savings, which means tax dollars are being used more efficiently.
In 2011, Luke Air Force Base was rated No. 1 within its Major Command of 12 bases for its energy efficiency measures, which granted the base $1.5 million for energy efficiency programs and projects, such as retrofitting old buildings. The base has also been pushing to install solar hot water heaters, solar panels for electricity production, and installing solar-powered lighting wherever possible. However, even with the federal awards, money for these projects is hard to come by.
“There is no shortage of good ideas,” said Capt. A.J. Zorn of the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron, “just a lack of funds.”
Additionally, senior leadership is usually willing to offer support for projects, when money permits, but officials rarely show desire or provide the push that the Air Force desperately needs when money is tight. It’s a bottleneck, and it’s preventing the culture from changing.
Luke AFB has its energy bills paid for by the Air Force and getting base funds for energy efficient projects is next to impossible, especially when mission critical projects take precedence.
Despite these challenges, Base Energy Manager MSgt. Adam Kelley has found ways to influence change throughout the base. Each April, the base features its Energy Awareness Month. The entire month is dedicated to instructing airmen about the necessities of energy efficiency and how it relates to mission critical objectives. In combination with APS and other venders, airmen and locals alike can benefit from energy saving ideas, free CFL bulbs, and a variety of articles in the base newspaper. Additionally, Kelley oversees monthly orientations for newcomers to the base. Whether civilian or airman, all base employees receive training on how they can help accomplish the base’s energy efficiency goals.
Luke AFB was poised to enter into a solar lease program with APS a few years back, similar to the solar lease options that residential customers have with 3rd party solar companies. But an archeological discovery of ancient cultural artifacts delayed construction, and APS could no longer present a financially beneficial proposal for the base by the time the site was given cleared to resume construction.
Instead of benefiting from cleaner, more affordable solar energy, Luke AFB will lease the land for APS to use for whatever projects they have in the pipeline. Despite this hiccup, the base is still adding solar arrays to many of its buildings.
Luke AFB also plans to incorporate more flight simulators into pilot training, and an increasing number Air Force planes are being flown on a mixture of jet fuel and renewable biofuels in efforts to reduce the amount of jet fuel being consumed.