Top Ten Cleantech Highlights of Boeing


Boeing is a United States-based aerospace and defense corporation founded in 1916. Boeing has a number of business units, including Boeing Defense, Space and Security, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Boeing Capital, Engineering, Operations and Technology, and the Boeing Shared Services Group. Boeing is one of the largest international aircraft manufacturers and aerospace and defense contractors. Boeing has been involved in a number of clean technology innovations, including jet biofuels and electric propulsion. Here are just a few highlights of what Boeing has done to assist with environmental sustainability.

1) Sustainable Biofuels. Boeing has been very instrument in sharing its sustainable biofuels research as well as solutions throughout the entire industry. Boeing has been focused on providing sustainable biofuels that are produced from multiple renewable energy resources, including algae and do not compete with any water or food crop usage. In 2008, Boeing conducted the very first commercial aviation flight utilizing a blend of traditional kerosene-based fuel with biofuels. The flight was conducted on a Boeing airplane and no modifications were made to it. Boeing has currently invested in much biofuels based research all over the world, including the United States, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East, China and India.

2) Efficient Boeing Air Transportation Systems. Boeing looks to make air traffic management improvements to provide great opportunities in improving fuel-efficiency performance and environmental performance within the air transportation industry. One procedure developed by Boeing is Tailored Arrivals. This allows flight controllers to tailor make flight plans, thereby reducing fuel consumption as well as emissions. Efficient landings means that airplanes spend less time circling the airport in a holding pattern when the area is congested with planes.

3) Chemical Reduction. Boeing is always looking to reduce their use of chemicals in any way possible. For example, Boeing developed an alternative to chrome-based paints that are now used on a number of planes and helicopters. The chrome free paints reduce overall environmental impact and eliminate any need to specially handle paint waste. Boeing is also currently researching ways to eliminate the use of Halon.

4) Looking for Alternative Energy Solutions. Boeing has pioneered a number of advancements in fuel cells, solar cells, and environmentally friendly energy sources in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and conserve all resources. Boeing’s Energy Solutions Group, researches and develops innovative solutions that can be used to boost the security and efficiency of energy systems on a local, regional and national level. For example, at the end of 2009, Energy Solutions was given three United States government contracts to demonstrate new smart grid technologies, including increasing grid reliability, reducing system demands and cost, and increasing energy efficiency.

5) Boeing Partners with Siemens for Department of Defense Energy Modernization. In August 2011, Boeing created a strategic alliance with Siemens to jointly develop and market new smart grid technologies that would improve energy security and access for the United States Department of Defense, which is the largest consumer of energy throughout the federal government. “This collaboration will make a real difference in how the DOD uses energy,” said Tim Noonan, vice president of Boeing Energy.”For years, Boeing has developed secure, networked systems vital to the nation’s defense, and bringing this capability to the development of energy security and efficiency is vital for the military’s future. Boeing and Siemens’ combined approach will help provide energy independence and critical infrastructure protection to ensure mission success for the U.S. military, at home and abroad.”

6) Boeing Makes Announcement of 100 Percent Renewable Energy Site in South Carolina. In April 2011, Boeing announced that the roof on its South Carolina 787 jet assembly plant is going to be covered in solar panels, providing the opportunity for its entire operation to be powered using only renewable energy. The panels will offer 2.6 megawatts of electrical power, which will be enough for the site. It is said to be the largest solar installation in the Southeast and the sixth largest in the whole nation. “This will be a 100 percent renewable energy site and it’s the first site we have in the world that is making that commitment,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

7) Boeing Won 2006 Contract for Solar Cell Construction. In 2006, Boeing signed a contract to build 600,000 solar concentrator cells for a California-based renewable energy company – SolFocus Inc. “Companies on the cutting edge of the renewable energy revolution come to us because we are the world’s leading manufacturer of solar cells,” said Charles Toups, vice president of engineering for Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. “Our Spectrolab subsidiary has leveraged its expertise in space photovoltaic products to create solar cells with record-breaking efficiencies for Earth-based applications.” The 12 month contract will see the production of the cells to be used to convert sun into energy for homes and businesses.

8 ) Boeing Looks into Electric Battery Gas Turbine Hybrid Propulsion System. One of Boeing’s latest visions is similar to that of the batteries now being seen in passenger cars…only this answer would be for the aviation industry. Through research and development Boeing is stating that it is possible that by 2035 a 737-sized aircraft could be a reality through the advancements in battery technology. This type of aircraft would emit 65 percent less carbon dioxide emissions, and could easily go up to 80 percent less is biofuels are used rather than kerosene.

9) Boeing Begins Commercial Scale Production of Solar Cells. In 2010, Boeing made the announcement that it would be delivering their first commercial scale, high efficiency solar power cells by January 2011. The photovoltaic cells would have efficiency of up to 39.2 percent. And while the efficiency record as determined by the NREL is at 40 percent, there is no telling if Boeing can get there with some improvements over the next year.

10) Boeing Partners with Stirling Energy Systems. In 2010, Boeing Partnered with Stirling Energy Systems, a solar thermal company, for the development of Boeing’s high-concentration photovoltaic solar power technology. This technology would be more powerful than current photovoltaic solar panels as well as smaller in scale than most solar thermal plants currently being built.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. I recently saw some pieces on shows like CNN and the journal with Joan Lunden that were talking about issues and solutions for industrial recycling and it made me think about the importance of Industy leading in these issues. They have so much more influence than any individual and this story gives me hope in a conversation that many times only has negative news and stats to look at. If more companies follow Boeings lead we will live in a different world in 20 years.