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Pentagon backs plan to beam solar power from space

Dan Cho, New Scientist
A futuristic scheme to collect solar energy on satellites and beam it to Earth has gained a large supporter in the US military. A report released yesterday by the National Security Space Office recommends that the US government sponsor projects to demonstrate solar-power-generating satellites and provide financial incentives for further private development of the technology.

Space-based solar power would use kilometre-sized solar panel arrays to gather sunlight in orbit. It would then beam power down to Earth in the form of microwaves or a laser, which would be collected in antennas on the ground and then converted to electricity. Unlike solar panels based on the ground, solar power satellites placed in geostationary orbit above the Earth could operate at night and during cloudy conditions.

“We think we can be a catalyst to make this technology advance,” said US Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Paul Damphousse of the NSSO at a press conference yesterday in Washington, DC, US.

The NSSO report (pdf) recommends that the US government spend $10 billion over the next 10 years to build a test satellite capable of beaming 10 megawatts of electric power down to Earth.

At the same press conference, over a dozen space advocacy groups announced a new alliance to promote space solar power – the Space Solar Alliance for Future Energy. These supporters of space-based solar power say the technology has the potential to provide more energy than fossil fuels, wind and nuclear power combined.
(11 October 2007)

Hydrogen Uses in the Military – conference Oct 2-4

Conference website, National Hydrogen Association
In the Department of Defense, product technical maturity is described in terms of Technology Readiness Levels (TRL). Advanced products attain Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL).

By attending the NHA Fall Topical Forum, you can help shape the MRL protocols for hydrogen and fuel cells. This year’s Forum features participants from both the DoD and the hydrogen industry, and will provide an interactive venue for discussing the needs and challenges for facilitating early market transition
(2-4 October 2007)
Slide presentations from the speakers are available as PDFs at the original page. -BA

Air Force continues success in reducing energy impact

William C. Anderson, U.S. Air Force
The mission of the Air Force is to deliver air power for the defense of America and its global interests, a mission that requires a rapid-response fighting force capable of flying and fighting in air, space and cyberspace anywhere at anytime.

Every October, the Air Force, along with the rest of the federal government, recognizes Energy Awareness Month. Our theme this year echoes our energy vision: “Making energy a consideration in all we do.”

This vision serves as the foundation of our energy strategy:

— Reduce demand by increasing our energy efficiency and reducing our energy consumption
— Increase supply by researching, testing and certifying new technologies
— Investigating cutting edge uses of renewable and conventional sources of energy in order to create new domestic sources of supply;
— Change the culture to ensure energy is a consideration in all we do.

Energy, from JP-8 in our aircraft to electricity in our air operation centers, powers our combat capability, allowing us to fly, fight and win our nation’s wars. The Air Force consumed almost 2.6 billion gallons of aviation fuel in fiscal 2006 at a cost of almost $5.8 billion. Our total energy bill exceeded $7 billion when we include energy to operate our bases and fuel our ground vehicles.

We need to think about how energy is essential to this mission and our priorities of winning the war on terrorism, preparing for future conflicts and humanitarian missions, taking care of Airmen and recapitalizing and modernizing our air, space and cyberspace systems.

… To meet that challenge, we have been identifying new domestic sources of supply. In August, the B-52 Stratofortress fleet was certified to use a 50/50 blend of synthetic fuel and traditional JP-8. The C-17 Globemaster III is the next airframe we’ll certify, and we’re on course to certify the entire Air Force aircraft fleet by early 2011.

Mr. Anderson is the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics
(12 October 2007)
BA: This is public relations, so approach with a grain of salt.

Contributor Sohbet Karbuz writes:

The efforts of the USAF are admirable. But why insist so much (nearly hysterically) on synthetic fuels (derived from coal, the USAF’s new plan)? The USAF continually complains about fuel costs but never mentions EROEI and full-costs. Why select B-52 and C-17, the largest gas guzzling aircrafts, to run on synfuel blend? Why doesn’t the USAF admit that, as is the case in all the other services, energy consumption reductions in installations mainly came from privatization and outsourcing (in the case of non-tactical vehicle energy consumption)?

Despite these criticisms, the USAF should be congratulated for its efforts. An important recent initiative of USAF is (as put forward at Energy Enhanced Use Lease Industry Forum Sep. 26-27) to build partnerships between the military and private industry by leasing underutilized military assets to private entities for generating energy.