2009 Environment Report Boeing
Alternative Energy Solutions

Boeing is pioneering advancements in alternative energy sources that offer the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—from advanced-generation sustainable biofuels to solar cells.

Advanced-Generation Biofuels

Boeing is helping guide the industry toward supporting the development and commercialization of a new generation of sustainable, plant-based fuel sources that offer a lower lifecycle carbon footprint and don't compete with food and land resources. These advanced-generation sustainable biofuels afford significant environmental benefits when considered on a lifecycle basis. Since plant-based fuel sources absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) when they are grown, fuels that are produced through sustainable growing practices have the potential to reduce the industry's dependence on fossil fuels, while offering a 50-80 percent CO2 reduction over the course of their lifetime.

In February 2008, Boeing, Virgin Atlantic and GE Aviation proved the technical feasibility of using biofuels in a commercial jetliner during the first biofuel flight using a sustainable biofuel mixed with kerosene-based fuel. That effort was followed by a sustainable biofuels test flight in December with Air New Zealand and Rolls-Royce. In early 2009, Boeing conducted another series of evolutionary test flights with Continental Airlines and GE Aviation, and Japan Airlines and Pratt & Whitney, respectively, with all of the flights emphasizing sustainable biofuels that potentially can be applied to the existing airplane fleet to reduce CO2 emissions, regardless of the feedstock origin.

Boeing is focused on promoting the development of sustainably grown, advanced-generation biofuels that do not compete with food crops (among other advantages). The chart on this page highlights the relative yields of various biofuel feedstocks.

Biofuel Chart

The body of knowledge generated through the sustainable biofuels flight test program will directly contribute to the effort to certify these fuels through the ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Materials and Testing) standards board. The overarching goal of that effort is to change the current jet fuel specification requirement that states it must be derived from petroleum-based source material.

2008 also saw the formation of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, a thought-leading group of airlines, industry leaders, environmental organizations and fuel technology leaders, to accelerate the development and commercialization of sustainable new aviation fuels. This activity will help enable the commercial use of renewable fuel sources that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while lessening commercial aviation's exposure to oil price volatility and dependence on fossil fuels, and makes aviation the first global transportation sector to voluntarily promote acceptance of sustainability practices into its fuel supply chain. Collectively, the nine airline members account for approximately 15 percent of commercial jet fuel use.

Our government and military customers are also pursuing advancements in sustainable biofuels. The U.S. Air Force plans to certify its aircraft fleet to use a 50-50 blend of sustainable biofuel and traditional jet fuel by 2013.

Solar Cells

Our wholly-owned subsidiary Spectrolab is one of the world's leading manufacturers of solar cells, powering everything from satellites and interplanetary missions to renewable solar energy companies in California, Arizona and Australia. In 2006, Spectrolab's Earth-based concentrator cells achieved a new world record with 40.7 percent efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity—and the company is pioneering new technologies anticipated to yield further improvements.