by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
10/11/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- During
a time when "government shutdown, furlough and recapitalization" are a
part of the military landscape, Airmen are constantly looking for ways
to save money for the service.
The 42nd Civil Engineer Squadron is doing more than just recycling and
trading out incandescent light bulbs to save energy. These engineers are
planning, sketching and studying how to leverage construction
technology to save the Air Force millions over the next decade.
Everything the Air Force does, from launching aircraft to sending
emails, costs money, and Airmen have an eye on reducing waste daily.
This can mean identifying and eliminating unnecessary waste from
missions or simply turning off computer screens and lights on the way
out the door each day.
Designated by the Department of Defense, Energy Awareness Month,
celebrated in October, focuses on informing the base populace about the
need to conserve energy.
The initiative focuses on increasing renewable sources of energy and
fostering a culture of conservation. Renewable energy increases base
security by reducing reliance on outside systems vulnerable to attack
and providing a backup power source in case of emergency.
Maxwell is using a program called utility energy savings contracting to
facilitate this process. It is a DOD and Air Force approved procurement
vehicle that allows federal facilities to directly negotiate energy
conservation implementation work with the utilities that serve the base.
"The base is starting direct negotiations with Alabama Power Company and
Alabama Gas Corporation in an effort to reduce bills and increase
efficiency," said Larry Rowland, 42nd CES base energy manager. "The less
energy the Air Force uses and the more service members save reduces
costs and enhances the ability to accomplish the mission. Energy impacts
our readiness and the money we can shave off our utility expenditures
can go directly to combat readiness or training depending on the
function of the base."
Every year, Maxwell spends approximately $15 million on utility costs, including electricity, gas and water.
"The environment here provides challenges to energy conservation,"
Rowland said. "We are very reliant on air conditioning and heating,
partly because Maxwell is an education base with lots of classrooms with
20-30 students in each daily."
According to civil engineer officials, Maxwell's single biggest expense
is electricity for air conditioning; however there are other ways the
base can save money on energy.
"Energy conservation is a broad concept," said Kristi Rollins, 42nd CES
community planner. "Landscaping and buildings in general take energy and
resources to maintain. We are looking at the buildings that we are
designing, and we try to ensure they are oriented properly so they need
to use less energy. In addition, we are using river water from the
Alabama River to irrigate our golf courses, which saves the base
$125,000 per year."
Cities and bases across the country provide inspiration for innovative
ways in which to save energy. Cities like Boston, the most energy
efficient city in the U.S. based on analysis by the American Council for
an Energy-Efficient Economy, and Nellis Air Force Base, which generates
25 percent of its own power using solar panel fields. These cities and
bases set the example by implementing energy saving initiatives that can
be repeated here and at other Air Force bases.
One of the major initiatives the team here is undertaking is using
technology to help reduce energy consumption and eliminate waste.
Currently, Maxwell employs an energy management system that remotely
monitors and controls heating and cooling in many of the larger
buildings on base. The system, monitored by an operator, can tell if a
room is getting too hot or cold while tracking how the building's
heating and cooling systems are performing. When necessary, adjustments
to temperature set-points and system schedules can be made that will
meet the needs of the mission while conserving energy.
"In addition to energy management systems we are looking at lighting
projects that will turn the lights off when no one is around and dim
them to take advantage of natural light coming in from windows. We call
it 'light harvesting,'" Rowland said.
Other initiatives base civil engineers are considering include occupancy
based temperature setback systems in dormitories. The temperature
setback system targets a specific room and adjusts the temperature to a
specific range until the resident returns.
According to Rowland, the system comes directly from observing civilian
industry, specifically hotels, and adapting it to military use.
"Like any other cost-control measure, you first have to eliminate
waste," Rowland said. "It can be as simple as turning off the lights. We
all forget sometimes. When people start to forget enough, then you need
to look into ways of controlling it."
Maxwell will host an energy expo Nov. 15 that will give people on base
the opportunity to come and see examples of what technologies could be
put to use in base facilities to conserve energy. The annual event is
geared toward residential and commercial applications and vehicles.
"Energy conservation is everyone's job and it is to everyone's benefit on base," Rowland said.