Guard shows off successful facility energy program

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Elmore
This article is based on a transcript of a 9-minute video. If you would like a copy, call the AFCEC ReachBack Center at 888-232-3721. To view the video, visit

From installation infrastructure to aviation operations, energy provides the Air Force with the power it needs to perform. It impacts all Air Force missions, operations and organizations such as the Air National Guard.

"I'm most proud of the way the community, meaning the base energy managers, the facility managers, the headquarters staff all have come together and embraced the concept that we need to reduce facility energy, and the way we've gone about it," said Ben Lawless, ANG Operations Division chief.

Reducing facility energy in the Air National Guard is a daunting task considering its size - more than 100 locations and 49 million square feet. In 2011, the Guard spent more than $64 million on utilities.

Guardsmen use the Air Force's Infrastructure Energy Plan as a roadmap for energy conservation. It focuses on three key areas: improving current and future infrastructure, adding renewable energy and managing costs.

Improve Infrastructure

There are hundreds of ways to improve infrastructure and increase energy efficiency. The 158th Fighter Wing in Burlington, Vt. incorporated many examples into a new fire station that uses geothermal energy in the form of ground source heat pumps.

"The fire station features a number of good energy-saving products," said Steve St. Hilaire, the 158th's Resource Efficiency Manager. "One is the infrared heat. It's an excellent way to heat a space. Another one is the unit heaters. The hydronic unit heaters are fed off of the geothermal system. A couple of other products are the T-5 low-bay lights with the integrated motion sensors. When we're done here the lights will go off automatically to make sure they're not left on. And the last thing is the destratification fans. There's four Air Pear destratification fans in here that push the heat back down in the winter time."

Carbon monoxide sensors are used in buildings throughout the Guard to save energy. They're common in buildings such as paint hangars and vehicle maintenance shops.
"Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide sensors enable you to run only as much ventilation as necessary to provide quality air," said St. Hilaire. Occupancy sensors also help reduce energy. Installed in 257 rooms of lodging at Volk Field in Camp Douglas, Wis., these sensors adjust and maintain each room's temperature based on occupancy.

Savings from digital control systems, new lighting systems, boilers and chillers combine to make a significant reduction impact. Birmingham ANG civil engineers monitor heating and cooling equipment across the base with a direct digital control system. They determine whether a space is being overcooled or overheated and can often make adjustments without even going to the building.

A new chiller cools Birmingham's Intelligence Building. It's a multiple-compressor, variable speed unit that provides efficient operations over a wide range of loads. It's able to meet low load conditions by operating only one compressor and boasts low water consumption and no scale problems due to its advanced design.

Individual facility boilers are a new concept for places like Toledo and Pease where they've decentralized their heat plants. For Pease, this means 10,000 feet of hot water distribution lines no longer leak up to 40 percent of the heat produced at a central plant.

"We'd have occasions in the winter where you could actually see green grass where all the snow has melted due to the wasted heat," said Capt. Autumn Ricker, Deputy Base Civil Engineer, Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H. Engineers completed the project in 2011 and expect to save at least $300,000 a year. Another showcase project at Pease is the renovation of three hangars. New insulation and a complete lighting retrofit with digital controls and daylight sensors make them more energy-efficient buildings and better work environments.

The addition of new light fixtures and systems to control them provide great energy-saving opportunities. At the Guard base in Toledo, Ohio, LED lights are wired into a light management system. "Under the old photocell, two 900-watt light fixtures ran all night long," said Lt. Col. William Giezie, Toledo Mission Support Group Commander. "Now I've got two 300-watt fixtures only running during the hours that I need them."

Aircraft security is critical on ANG installations. Typically high-intensity metal halides or high pressure sodium lights are needed to spread an appropriate amount of light across the apron where planes park. However, the Wyoming Air National Guard at Cheyenne recently replaced its conventional 1,000-watt ballast and lamps with 400-watt electronic ballasts and lamps resulting in an energy savings of 70 percent.

Renewable Energy

"Congress is interested in demonstration projects and we've been the beneficiary of some congressional inserts to try and advance some exploratory activity," said Mr. William Albro, ANG Director of Installations and Mission Support. "Toledo's photovoltaic array for a small base is a case of that."

Toledo's 1.2 megawatt solar array provides 34 percent of the base's electrical needs. Engineers conducted an extensive evaluation of available technology to make sure the solar panels chosen would work well with Ohio environmental conditions.

A research and development grant at Burlington produced a similar solar field along with roof-mounted panels and a dual-axis ground-mounted array.

"While the PV array is noticeable and sexy, I'm more excited about what we're doing below ground with the geothermal," said Lt. Col. Adam Rice, Burlington's Base Civil Engineer. "We have our first geothermal system for the fire station. We have another one planned for a new security forces building. The geothermal in New England is a great way to go."

While finding the appropriate amount of land for a renewable energy project at a small guard base is difficult, most locations are able to invest in solar hot water systems. For example, there are 18 rooftop systems in Pease.

Manage Costs

There are many ways to manage costs. Depending on their location, some bases have a six-week shouldering period between seasons, a time when neither the heat nor air conditioning is turned on. Birmingham takes it a step further and conserves resources by following a four-day work week.

"Sustainability, pursuit of sustainability in a declining resource world is going to be a challenge," said Albro. "We shouldn't shy away from that and we shouldn't just throw up our hands and say, 'because we've got no money, we're not going to do things.' We need to adapt the practices of what we're doing and try and do them to the best of our ability, regardless of the funding stream."

Every Guardsman can help by taking action. ACTION stands for Appliance reduction, Computer log off, Temperature set points, Inform facility managers, Outdoor conservation and No waste.

Do you have a refrigerator or coffee maker in your work area? Many personal appliances can be removed or consolidated in break rooms. Log off computers to ensure they enter energy-saving sleep modes. Be aware of temperature set points. Most bases use 68 degrees in the winter and 76 degrees in the summer. Report incorrect temperature set points, leaky faucets, blocked air vents, cracked windows and other problems to your facility manager. If you notice a broken sprinkler head wasting water or area lights left on in parking lots during the day, report it to civil engineering.

Infrastructure improvements, renewable energy, cost management and simple conservation actions have helped the ANG reduce energy more than 20 percent since 2003. "We've exceeded what we were supposed to do," said Lawless. "That's not magic. It's not that we spent more money. It's just that this whole idea has really meant something to the Guard."