The U.S. Air Force’s energy plans are about to take off.

In January, at a solar energy conference in New York, Paul T. Geiss, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Energy, one of the keynote speakers, said the nation’s air defense force has ambitious plans to expand its consumption of renewable power.

According to the United Press International, citing a report in the local Middletown (N.Y.) Times-Herald Record, Geiss said specifically that the Air Force will quadruple its on-base solar-energy use in four years.
The plans should come as little surprise because the Air Force has for many years distinguished itself as the leader in the use of renewable power among the armed forces. In fact, it is the leading government buyer of renewable energy.

Those renewable purchases help offset the military’s voracious appetite for energy. In 2010, the U.S. Defense Department spent more than $24 billion on fuel and energy.

The effect of such an enormous energy footprint has not gone unnoticed. All the armed forces are under congressional order to establish a goal to make or buy at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020. With or without the nudging from Congress, the nation’s military brass has taken bold steps to change the way its forces get energized.

Currently, much of the energy consumed by the military goes toward gas, oil guzzling vehicles, and the heating and cooling of facilities on the front. This energy dependence makes troops more vulnerable. In fact, many frontline casualties occur on the convoys that deliver those fuels.

To change this dynamic, the armed forces have launched proactive projects embracing renewable power. They include mobile solar and wind generators to replace fuel trucks on the battlefield, solar and geothermal power facilities at military bases, naval vessels powered by alternative fuels, and even jets using bio-fuels.