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Commentary | Oct. 6, 2011

As energy demand increases, efficiency is critical (2)

By Mark Hanna 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron

So, what is energy demand? Demand is everybody's part of the energy equation. Whatever the kind of energy, use is called demand.

Turn on a light at home and that's 14 watts of demand. (You do use compact fluorescents, don't you?) Start up the air conditioning system on base and it demands between .6 and 1.2 kilowatts per ton of cooling. Your beloved microwave demands between 800 and 1,000 watts per hour depending on your setting.

Driving to and from the base or around town or to your favorite vacation spot may demand between 16 to 40 miles per gallon, depending on what kind of vehicle you drive. Fly a 747 full of passengers across the Atlantic and it will demand one gallon per person, per 100 miles. Notice, each description of energy demand compared efficiencies of energy use. Since almost every part of our lives has something to do with energy, we should always be considering the wisest use of energy.

Our biggest challenge in demand management is in the area of strategic energy. Strategic energy is energy we depend upon and must get from outside North America. Yes, that's right, from foreign oil. Most of the electrical energy generated in the United States is not from strategic fuels; only about six percent, which is from Hawaii, remote areas in Alaska and some coastal islands.

However, the transportation needs of our nation are very dependent on strategic fuels. Motor fuels and aircraft fuels are very important to use wisely. That doesn't mean that conserving electricity is no longer important. It is very important; for in the next several years, we will be shifting over to electrical energy to meet some of our transportation needs. We will be seeing electrical cars in our future, and even on base.

According to the Federal Times, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is buying an all electric fleet. It will be the first federal installation to abandon all of its solely gas-powered passenger cars, shuttle busses, cargo trucks and even forklifts.

"With the cost of gas rising and the cost of batteries falling, now is the time to explore electric fleets," said Erin Conaton, undersecretary of the Air Force.

Did you know that even how we use water figures into the demand side of our energy equation? I don't just mean those long, wonderful, hot showers we like to take. I also mean every drop of water from the local water utility.

You see those big blue tanks located around town and on the bases? That's our water supply. Those are pumped full each day to meet all of our domestic water needs. The pumping energy to fill them is substantial, not to mention the electrical energy used to treat the water making sure it is safe to drink and bathe in. Then it must be disposed of, and sewage pumps and treatment plants use massive amounts of electricity too.

I'm sure you're getting the idea that everything we do demands we use energy wisely. Next week I will write on some exciting things that are happening on the supply side of the equation. Meanwhile, we would like to hear from you. Please send us your energy thoughts, ideas and questions; you are a part of the team.

don.white2@langley.af.mil
mark.hanna.ctr@Langley.af.mil