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News > AFSOC makes 'green' history while investing in future
Story at a Glance
 Transportable plasma waste-to-energy system converts garbage to usable energy
 Hurlburt's system is five times larger than its predecessor located in Montreal, Canada
 Intense heat of plasma converts domestic waste into a synthetic gas providing energy to the system, energy grid
AFSOC makes 'green' history while investing in future

Posted 4/28/2011   Updated 5/2/2011 Email story   Print story


by Ashley M. Wright
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

4/28/2011 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Air Force Special Operations Command became 4,200 tons closer to securing effective alternative energy solutions and even greater environmental stewardship at Hurlburt Field, Fla., April 26.

With a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the transportable plasma waste-to-energy system began converting 4,200 tons of garbage per year to usable energy and producing intangible benefits by reducing the command's overall carbon footprint.

"This is history in the making," said Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics, who was on hand for the ceremony. "This is the first waste-to-energy project of this technology to go into an air base. It has been a long time in the making."

The system uses the intense heat of plasma to convert domestic waste into a synthetic gas that provides energy to the system. The 5,000 degrees Celsius temperature will also melt tin cans, glass or metals found in garbage into glassy rock, which will be recycled or sold. With temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun, there is the possibility to dispose of medical and hazardous waste from here and nearby Eglin Air Force Base.

Benefits include keeping nearly 8.3 tons of daily domestic trash from Hurlburt out of landfills for future generations to deal with, reducing gas emissions by over 83,000 tons per year and eliminating toxic materials while producing energy. The system is designed to hold close to 12 tons of trash per day, according to officials.

The system can be transported to bases and deployed locations around the globe to shrink the ecological footprint of the U.S. military by reducing the need to burn waste.

"Our motto is 'a step ahead in the changing world,' but that is not just about airplanes," said Lt. Gen. Donny C. Wurster, AFSOC commander.

The transportable plasma waste-to-energy system also generates 'cost avoidance' revenue by reducing tipping fees paid by the Air Force to dispose of domestic waste, hazardous materials, medical waste and more, which coincides with the service's commitment to environmental excellence.

"The Air Force is committed to finding cost-effective solutions that support and enhance Air Force operations while protecting and securing the environment," said Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley recently. "We're dedicated to action today for a greener and more sustainable Air Force tomorrow."

The project has been in the works since 2007 and is the brainchild of George "Ron" Omley, AFSOC Environmental chief, who began researching the idea after hearing former President George W. Bush speak.

"It is a project we have been working on for four years, and to see it recognized and operating is fulfilling and gratifying," Mr. Omley said. "I look forward to seeing this technology spread."

While other similar land based systems exist, none in the U.S. are using this design, Mr. Omley said. As a system of this size has never been built, testing is ongoing to see exactly how much energy will be created. The Hurlburt system is five times larger than its predecessor located in Montreal, Canada. That system was created by Pyrogenesis, which also assisted with this project.

"We are learning new things everyday about the system," Mr. Omley said.

The system cost about $7.4 million to build. The funding for the technology originated from the U.S. Foreign Comparative Testing Office, Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century, the Canadian government, the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General's office and Gulf Power.

11/26/2013 7:32:56 PM ET
How much is the maintenance cost for the system per year
Yasuo Horiguchi, Yokota AFB
5/2/2011 1:18:19 PM ET
How does this operation impact your recycling program for combustibles like paper cardboard and plastics
Keith Carnley, Arnold AFB
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