The Pentagon has asked Congress for $131 million to develop energy-saving technologies during the next five years. The proposed budget would fund a mix of fuel cells, generators and engine technologies. The projects were selected based on input from the military services, says John Young, director of defense research and engineering. His office oversees the so-called “Energy Security Task Force,” which was created to find ways to reduce fossil-fuel consumption.
The Defense Department is the largest single consumer of fuel in the United States even though it accounts for just 1.2 percent of the nation’s energy use. Nearly 60 percent of the Pentagon’s energy consumption is in the form of jet fuel, which powers not only aircraft, but also tanks and some Navy ships.
The funds the task force requested for 2008 — about $36.4 million — will be directed to several projects, Young says in an interview.
Nearly $10 million will be allocated to an Army effort to develop a fuel-efficient truck that eventually would replace the humvee.
About $5 million is for “transportable hybrid electric power systems,” which generate energy from renewable sources such as solar panels and wind. These transportable generators yield 5 kilowatts of electricity, and they are in great demand by deployed units in Iraq, Young says. “Approximately 63 percent of our generator needs are in that 5 kilowatt and below application.”
Another $5 million will fund the development of fuel cells that run with military JP-8 fuel. Many commercial fuel cells are powered by hydrogen but the Defense Department wants its devices to burn the same fuel that currently powers most military vehicles.
Another project funded at $4 million is to accelerate the development of small engines — for unmanned aircraft — that can run on JP-8 fuel. The Defense Department favors this fuel because of its high energy density, Young says. A gallon of ethanol, for example, only has two-thirds the energy of a gallon of JP-8. “It’s going to be tough to displace JP-8,” says Young. “The commercial market doesn’t use logistics fuel.”
That is why the Defense Department cannot employ many commercial fuel cells, which are extremely sensitive to the impurities found in military fuel. The Defense Department, however, has acquired commercial fuel cells for use at major U.S. military bases, says Young. “When you go to the battlefield, sometimes you need different technology.”
Some $10.9 million will fund research towards a “highly efficient embedded turbine engine,” which could benefit all the services, Young says. One possible application is the Air Force’s next generation long-range strike bomber.
The energy task force also is seeking nearly $1 million to study ways to expand the use of flight simulators so the services can reduce live flying and thus save fuel.
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