28 August 2014

Kicking the JP-8 Addiction

The Department of Defense uses 4,600,000,000 US gallons of fuel annually, according to “Department of Defense Energy Strategy Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks” by Gregory J. Lengyel, Colonel, USAF. If it were a country, the DoD would rank 34th in the world in average daily oil use, coming in just behind Iraq and just ahead of Sweden.

For an organization that boasts of leading the way in many technological aspects that bring about change to society, we’re also leading the way in supporting the oil industry for no seemingly apparent reason.

We’ve made some advances in how we generate energy. There is a 16 megawatt solar array at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona and plans for a 20 megawatt solar farm in Fort Bliss, Texas, slated to come online in 2015.

While this has the potential to save millions of dollars in energy costs on some military installations, according to the PEW Report: Power Surge: Energy Security and the Department of Defense, only 20 percent of the DoD’s power consumption occurs on domestic defense installations.

Why do we continue to rely on JP-8 to power our aviation assets when there are alternatives like the Solar Impulse that can, quite literally, fly forever? While this prototype wouldn’t work for military uses, adapting the technology to overhaul our fleets seems like a no-brainer.

Companies like Southern California Edison are retrofitting heavy-duty trucks with a cleaner source of auxiliary power without the need to keep the engines running: automotive grade lithium ion batteries. Is it really beyond our capabilities to do the same?

Why aren’t our motor pools and flight lines being renovated with Solar Roadway technology to power the vehicles they house or to weatherproof landing strips from ice that cause delays or aborted missions? Why hasn’t our Navy begun harvesting energy from deep ocean currents?

How much JP-8 is used to power field assets like Tactical Operations Centers? Could the fuel burning generators used not be replaced or at least complimented by Solar Generators?

Many of the generators used in the military are seldom used to capacity and with a quick Google search I’ve found systems that can generate 1500 watts. Couple this with the fact that the noise pollution created by fuel based generators dwarfs that of solar generators and you’ve already become a much more tactical element.

Why do we bring fuel based systems to deployed environments and then pay for fuel to be brought to those locations when we could erect solar or wind farms shortly after arrival?

How has the biggest military application of piezoelectricity been an attempt at fitting disks in to the boots of service members? 

How has the massive amount of energy expended during physical fitness training gone untapped for so long? 

If we want to be the leaders of innovation like we often claim, we certainly have our work cut out for us.

Comment below or start the discussion here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

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