The Colorado Springs Gazette and The Denver Post report that the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs will spend $100 million (USD) over the next five years to produce 12-15 megawatts of power annually with the goal of achieving energy independence by 2015. The Academy’s approach represents a great test case for locally generated renewable energy. In order to accomplish the goal of energy independence, the Air Force Academy will need to diversify its energy portfolio. One major source of energy production will originate from flowing water that runs through their campus. On site hydroelectric power generation will provide approximately 1.3 megawatts of electricity to power the campus. Additional energy production will come from a number of other sources. Current plans include an undetermined number of wind turbines, which will be capable of producing upwards of 4 megawatts, a 2 megawatt photovoltaic system and waste-to-energy operations on campus. According to The Gazette article, “the academy wants a second solar plant and facility that would ferment food waste generated at the school’s dining hall and other garbage to create enough methane gas to fire a two megawatt generator” within the next few years. The Gazette touches on an important point with regards to conservation. “To become fully energy independent, the school would also use conservation measures during ongoing remodeling and modernization projects.” Any discussion of energy independence needs to include reduction of current energy consumption. Not only will this reduce demand but it yields dividends by lowering energy bills.
Total power generation from the various projects is projected to equal the electricity consumed by 10,000 homes, with the Academy estimating “it would save enough in utility bills to cover the costs of the generating plants in as little as a decade.”