By Air Force Master Sgt. Greg Rudl
National Guard Bureau
The Air National Guard is working to lower its utility bill or at least slow the increase over the next few years.
Last year, it paid $82 million for power to its 100 or so bases and 77 geographically separated units (GSUs), according to the ANG Renewable Energy Office. Two-thirds of that cost came from electricity and one-third from gas.
The Air Guard and the entire DoD must meet a goal of reducing energy intensity by 30 percent by 2015. It’s a 10-year, 3-percent-a-year requirement that started in 2005.
“Energy intensity” is based on the power used per square foot of facility space.
Helping to meet that goal is Bob Bossert, the ANG’s facility energy program manager, and his team at the Civil Engineering Technical Services Center at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. They support the field in all facility-related issues, including heating and air conditioning and roofing systems.
They also make sure that the Air Guard achieves its energy goals by “reducing consumption and generating energy using renewables.” The blueprint for that plan is conducting energy audits, installing smart meters and performing retro commissioning.
One way that Bossert’s team helps the field save money on utility bills is by facilitating energy audits.
They contract with a team that visits a facility, identifies energy conservation opportunities and measures and assists them with programming projects.
He said the team will visit all ANG bases by the end of 2010.
The teams are typically made up of four to five people that spend two weeks on-location.
“We’ll take those energy audits and [from them] generate projects that upgrade our systems to make the buildings more efficient,” said Bossert.
For the record, ANG facilities consumed 4.2 million MMBTUs (one million British Thermal Units), split roughly between electricity and natural gas, he said.
It’s not using only less power, but consuming it at the right time. Energy used during peak hours costs more.
Bossert’s office has facilitated the installation of smart meters at ANG facilities that monitor electric, gas and water consumption in real-time.
“We can track building by building the energy used … every 15 minutes” and identify high-consumption buildings and high-demand times, he said.
The data supplied can be used to change work processes, like staggering the startup of shop equipment, which decreases the use of electricity during peak demand.
“Let’s take washing an aircraft: Can we do that in the morning when the electricity is cheaper than in the afternoon when we’ll pay more for it?” said Bossert.
Along with energy audits and the smart meters, his office is doing the “blocking and tackling” of the ANG’s energy program, so that bases can win at the utilities game.
They are doing facility retro commissioning – a process that seeks to improve how building equipment and systems function together – of between 1 to 1.5 million square feet of space at ANG bases per year.
“That’s where a contractor will go in, evaluate how the heating, AC and lighting systems are working … calibrate what needs calibrating, fix what’s broken and get those systems working as efficiently as they can,” he said.
Homemade green energy
Another way the Guard is controlling its utility bill is by producing its own renewable energy. Several facilities have installed or will be installing solar and wind systems. These systems produce power for the base and power that can also be fed back into the grid for energy credit.
The Air Guard must meet a goal of having at least 25 percent of its energy come from renewable, domestically produced sources by 2025.
Fresno Air National Guard Base in California has been operating solar arrays for about three years that produce 700-750 kilowatts per year, said Mark Bailey of the ANG renewable energy office, who works with Bossert. The 180th Fighter Wing (FW) of the Ohio Air Guard has also built one.
Bailey said that the Air Guard realizes that solar power can be produced in places where one wouldn’t normally think it could and during the winter.
“Toledo [180th FW] found out that even when they have snow on the ground and snow on the solar panels, they’re still producing electricity,” said Bailey, adding that newer technology that improves performance is making this possible.
On a smaller scale, Arizona’s 162nd FW set up six trailer-mounted solar lighting systems to replace fuel-burning generator flood lights around its base at Tucson International Airport.
Even micro wind farms are being considered in geographically unlikely Guard bases like Duluth, Minn., and Columbus, Ohio, said Bailey. The base at Great Falls, Mont., home of the 120th FW, is looking into putting a fair-sized wind generation system in, which could be the largest so far for the Air Guard, he said.
The Virgin Islands Air National Guard on the island of St. Croix is considering one as well, which could satisfy all of its energy needs. “They get a lot of wind and they pay a lot for power [too],” said Bailey.
Bailey said some bases, like Truax Field in Madison, Wis., home to the 125th Fighter Wing, are specifying in their contract with their power supplier that they only want power from renewable sources.
“They are 100 percent-purchased green power—their power comes from wind sources from throughout the Midwest,” he said.
But renewable for renewable sake is not in the ANG’s energy plan. “We’re trying to implement and install it where it makes sense, and not where it doesn’t,” said Bossert.
Bases in sunny areas that are paying a lot for electricity are prime candidates. Also important is whether the state supports it. Bossert singled out New Jersey, California and the Northeast.
Even if installing solar panels isn’t economically feasible today, the Air Guard is constructing buildings that can be retrofitted later: “So, if all of sudden three years from now panels are half what they cost today, a facility will be ready for them.”
Roofs are being scrutinized as well. The nearly completed ANG Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews, Md., will be topped with Sedum, a small plant with special water-storing leaves. The plants will not only insulate but reduce storm-water run-off, an issue in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Bailey said Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus has installed white “cool roofs” on several of its buildings. They reflect sunlight better, reducing heat transfer to the building and cooling costs in the summer.
And then there’s mother earth.
“About 25 percent of the bases either have or are putting in at least one geothermal system – either a retrofit or a new construction,” said Bailey. A building at Truax Field is putting in a geothermal system that consists of 70 wells with pipes inside to tap mother earth’s energy potential.
The ANG is saving on its utility bills now and will be in the future by erecting buildings that use less energy. It’s called sustainability.
Bossert said it’s done by, “orientating the building on the lot so it takes best advantage of daylight and any existing trees … so that you have to use less heating and cooling and lighting.”
The ANG Readiness Center received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification – the industry standard for green buildings – and more are on the way.
Ben Lawless, chief of the operations division for the ANG’s Installations and Mission Support directorate, said recently that “green” buildings “are lower cost to operate, lower cost to maintain and provide a better work environment for the folks who have to do the day-to-day work in them.”
Along with information campaigns that remind troops to turn off lights and computers during off-hours, and installing sensors that do that for them, the ANG is even looking at other energy drainers. The cost of lighting pop machines at bases got the attention of process managers with the ANG’s waste-busting AFSO21 office. They saw thousands of dollars in energy savings by dimming the machines.
Bossert said leadership has bought-in to the energy conservation movement. He credited Col. Bill Albro, who leads the ANG’s Installations and Mission Support Directorate, for his vision in many of the areas mentioned. He has been proactive and even ahead of the Air Force, not only in discussion and planning, but allocating money for energy audits, meters and an improved ANG energy plan.
That plan states that facilities need to reduce and change their energy use because of rising utility costs, national security and energy independence issues, limited resources, climate change and the need to meet federal goals.
And it also states that “it’s the right thing to do.”
In a world that’s getting smaller every day, who could argue that it’s not?