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What could the Air Force do with $1.58 million?

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Workers install solar panels at Buckley Air Force Base May 24, 2010. Buckley Air Force Base is installing 5,040 solar panels over six acres on the base to meet the Air Force’s mandate on renewable energy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Paul Labbe)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Workers install solar panels at Buckley Air Force Base May 24, 2010. Buckley Air Force Base is installing 5,040 solar panels over six acres on the base to meet the Air Force’s mandate on renewable energy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Paul Labbe)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- What could the Air Force do with $1.58 million? It could build new office facilities or even dormitories. The Air Force could purchase 37 GBU-39B Small Diameter Bomb Weapon Systems or even 10 T-37 Tweets to train pilots for $1.58 million. $1.58 million was Buckley's utilities bill for Fiscal Year 2009.

To help offset this phenomenal cost as well as protect the environment, several years ago an executive order required the federal government's use of renewable electricity to meet or exceed three percent by 2007, and to increase to 7.5 percent by 2013. It also gives credits to federal agencies if renewable electricity is produced on-site.

In efforts to meet and exceed this mandate, Buckley Air Force Base is installing 5,040 solar panels over six acres on the base. This solar field will generate 1.2 megawatts of electricity for Team Buckley, about five percent of our electricity usage, according to Maj. Eldrick Hill, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron. This is not the first solar effort on Buckley; in fact, two solar walls have already been installed on the base.

Air Force-wide, renewable energy efforts are surging. F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., has installed wind turbines that are projected to save the Air Force $3 million over their lifetime. Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., brought a solar array, at the time the largest in North America, online in 2007 that will supply Nellis with more than 30 million kilowatt-hours of clean electricity every year and supply the base with more than 25 percent of the total power used.

During a speech at a recent U.S. Energy Forum, General Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff said, "We all must share a sense of urgency, particularly in light of continued flattening budgets, decreasing purchasing power, and rising costs in operations, maintenance, sustainment, personnel, and yes, energy. Together, we must inculcate energy efficiency and conservation as part and parcel of our modus operandi, integrated in all aspects of our Air Force mission--on the installations side and the aviation side.

"Currently, on our installations, there are many things that we are doing to conserve energy, like reducing facility energy consumption, increasing facility alternative and renewable energy resources, and decreasing ground vehicle fuel consumption," he added. "Although facilities and vehicle and ground equipment combine for a total of only 16 percent of total Air Force energy utilization, I am encouraged by this smaller-scale, but nonetheless significant, progress on our installations."
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