Air Force Pilots New Solar Power Storage System

by Tina Casey

AESM Hawaii -- US Air Force
Proposed AESM rooftop photovoltaic solar system courtesy of US Air Force.

In yet another demonstration of the US military’s transition to renewable energy, the Air Force Research Laboratory is eyeballing a computer center in Hawaii to demonstrate an advanced system for collecting, storing and using solar power. The aim is to show that solar power can contribute to a seamless energy management system for a sensitive, high-demand facility. If the pilot project is successful, it could be implemented at other Department of Defense facilities worldwide and make its way into the civilian sector as well.

The Air Force Advanced Energy Storage and Management System

The brains behind the new Advanced Energy Storage and Management System (AESM) is the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Power Technology Office. If that name rings a bell, the office is also the driver behind another forward-looking renewable energy project we covered earlier this month, which involves using on site wind turbines to avoid rough-weather fuel drops at a remote monitoring station in Alaska.

The proposed AESM will be installed at the Air Force’s Maui High Performance Computing Center, which is managed by the University of Hawaii (note: as of September 2013, UH was still the manager and has been disputing recent assignment of the contract to an out-of-state company).

Based on a rendering of the project, it appears that AESM will include roof mounted solar panels over part of the facility’s parking lot, forming a solar carport. The system is also capable of integrating wind power as well as grid-supplied power and power from on site generators.

In addition to their use in solar power generation, solar carports provide a sustainability twofer by helping to reduce wear and tear on vehicles that would otherwise be parked in the open, and by helping to reduce the amount of fuel used to cool the interior.

The project is currently in the technology selection phase. Once everything is installed and the go button is pushed, the demonstration period is expected to last up to two years.

More Renewable Energy For Hawaii

Of all the 50 states, Hawaii is the most vulnerable when it comes to fossil fuel dependency and it is also the site of key Department of Defense facilities, notably Pearl Harbor, so the state’s transition to locally harvested fuels is a vital national defense issue as well as a boost for consumers and businesses beset by high fossil fuel costs. In that context it’s little wonder that Hawaii was chosen as the shakedown site for the new AESM system.

AESM also dovetails with another solar project the computer center is pursuing, the Maui Solar Initiative. This will consist of a proposed 1.5-megawatt, 13-acre solar farm located nearby. Aside from reducing fossil fuel dependency in Hawaii, the project is expected to save big bucks for the Air Force, which according to hpcwire.com currently foots the center’s annual electricity bill of more than $3 million.

As for the Department of Defense, AESM is just one among a flood of military-backed renewable and advanced energy projects in Hawaii. The Navy alone just pumped $30 million into a statewide clean tech initiative called the Energy Excelerator.

Among the military’s many other projects on Hawaii are a grid-connected wave power demonstration, a fuel cell vehicle fleet initiative in partnership with GM, and even a full scale rainwater harvesting system to help address Hawaii’s shrinking prospects for rainfall in the future.

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This article, Air Force Pilots New Solar Power Storage System, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Tina Casey Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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Clean Energy: How To Get There From Here!

by John Brian Shannon

Everyone knows more electricity is needed in developed nations and electrical needs in developing nations are skyrocketing. No problem there — everyone deserves to live a good lifestyle and enjoy our modern technology to the fullest.

The problem occurs in the means used to generate that electricity. Some kinds of electrical power generation cause huge billowing clouds of pollution 24-hours per day, every day of the year.

All of this adds up to astronomically high costs for electrical power producers and users, which can be measured in several different ways.

For instance, new conventional nuclear  power plants can cost up to $20 billion dollars each. Added to that cost, is the cost incurred to store thousands of tons of (so-called) spent nuclear fuel. Some spent fuels must be stored in air-conditioned bunkers for up to 20,000 years, with never more than 36 hours of A/C interruption. The costs of that are so high, they can’t even be calculated.

New coal plants cost about $250 million dollars/per hundred megawatts. A hundred megawatts isn’t much, by the way – enough to power 16,000 power-hungry A/C homes in the U.S. or about 29,000 homes in China. Some coal-fired power plants cost upwards of $1 billion dollars. The cost of the coal must be added to the equation from day one – the price of which rises and falls typically between $80.00 and $160.00 per ton, plus the significant transportation costs. It may interest you to know that China burned 3 billion tons of coal last year, emitting 7.2 billion tons of CO2 and other toxic gasses. Approximately 410,000 Chinese people die every year as a result of pollution-related deaths.

Natural gas power plants are clean, they cost a little more than comparable coal plants and the only real drawback is they emit huge volumes of CO2. Unlike coal, they emit little in the way of other toxic gasses or soot. Again, a costly and continuous and supply of natural gas must be available every day of the year.

No matter which choice is made, the construction of electrical generation power plants incurs high costs to nations — and the cheapest options come with the highest fuel and health-care costs.

In the United States, nuclear power receives significant subsidies on the order of $3.50 billion per year on average and oil and gas receive $4.86 billion subsidy dollars per year on average.

fossil-fuel-subsidies-490x407

We can see from the chart above that in the United States most forms of electrical power generation are heavily subsidized. Who could afford electricity otherwise?

If solar, wind and geothermal energy were subsidized at the same per kilowatt rate as Oil & Gas, Coal, or Nuclear — total U.S. emission levels would drop dramatically and Americans would be breathing much cleaner air.

National health-care costs would drop, acid rain damage would decrease to near zero, crop damage from power plants would become a thing of the past and meeting international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol would become boringly simple.

To have the enjoyment of breathing clean air and the other benefits listed above, all governments should calculate the highest subsidy they pay per kilowatt hour and then begin paying ALL electricity providers that same per kilowatt hour subsidy.

Solar power, wind power and geothermal would then become ultra-competitive with coal, N-power and Oil & Gas. Every large rooftop area, such as big box retail outlets like IKEA stores for one good example, could assist national power production and air-quality goals by lowering demand on the grid and potentially adding power to it, while helping to enhance the health of citizens.

One nation has already begun such a program and is right on schedule. Denmark has decided that all energy, including transportation energy(!) will come from renewable sources by 2050 and they have made substantial progress in only a few short years.

Even with the patchwork and grossly unlevel subsidy regimes in place in the United States, this transition is already occurring. Organizations from the U.S. Navy, to IKEA and WalMart, some cities and towns, the Big Three auto manufacturers and many more businesses and organizations, are converting their unused rooftop spaces and vacant land into clean power stations — thereby tapering the need for behemoth, pollution-spewing power plants.

If governments standardized the subsidies they already pay for Oil & Gas, Coal and Nuclear power (instead of paying billions of dollars to some power providers — whilst paying pennies to others) we would all breathe a lot easier.

We need oil & gas, coal, natural gas and conventional nuclear power to feed our grids, what I’m  advocating for is directly comparable subsidies for all electricity providers, including green energy — and there are no real reasons why such subsidy levelization couldn’t soon happen in every country.

ABOUT JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

I write about green energy, sustainable development and economics. My blogs appear in the Arabian Gazette, EcoPoint, EnergyBoom, Huffington Post, United Nations Development Programme, WACSI — and other quality publications.

“It is important to assist all levels of government and the business community to find sustainable ways forward for industry and consumers.”

Green Energy blog: http://johnbrianshannon.com
Economics blog: https://jbsnews.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JBSCanada