The Air Force Catches the Wind

A Red Flag Alaska Operations shelter site will help Air Force researchers demonstrate wind turbine and fuel cell system options for improved operations.  (Photo provided by Air Force Research Lab)

A Red Flag Alaska Operations shelter site will help Air Force researchers
demonstrate wind turbine and fuel cell system options for improved operations. (Photo provided by Air Force Research Lab)

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) identified state-of-the-art small wind turbines capable in extreme arctic conditions for a winter demonstration.

The demonstration will provide proof-of-concept as well as data regarding site conditions and failure mechanisms.

The site will be remotely monitored to include data on ice, temperature, wind, humidity, and vibration sensors as well as camera feeds of the turbines.

The information will be relayed via satellite for off-site, real-time analysis.  In addition to wind turbine analysis, the Air Force will also demonstrate a fuel cell system in the wintery climate.

The fuel cell is a drop-in replacement option to meet the new operational goal. The shelter with the harshest weather conditions was selected as a demonstration site for the wind turbines.  The demonstration site also has climates most closely experienced across the rest of the range.

Additionally, this shelter has extreme ice conditions due to its proximity to the Yukon River. The fuel cell will be demonstrated at a road accessible location for weather independence. The turbines and fuel cell demonstration will begin in 2013.

The results of this demonstration will help determine the optimal power solution for the remote arctic range.

The solution provided by APTO will also improve resiliency and reduce demand for fossil fuels at the remote arctic shelters. If implemented the power system is expected to have a one year return on investment and improve safety by shifting refuel trips into periods of calmer weather.

APTO enables the transition and integration of advanced power and alternative energy technologies into the Air Force’s inventory of ground vehicles, aerospace ground support equipment, Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources, and base infrastructure through the progression of Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) while ensuring environmental responsibility.

Red Flag Alaska Operations, a 10-day air combat training, held at Eielson Air Force Base use remote shelters to control and monitor the exercises. The unmanned tactical shelters use generators that require fuel to be flown by helicopter semiannually, in September and March.

To help reduce costs and stresses put on aircraft flying into Alaska in March, the Air Force is working to extend the operation time between refueling to be September to June by using wind energy augmentation.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Power Technology Office executes technology development and demonstrations of alternative energy technologies on behalf of Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Energy. APTO is currently developing a comprehensive power solution for these shelters.

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