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Energy plans help bring in a ‘green’ New Year

23 Jan 2009 | Cpl. Margaret Hughes

The Combat Center’s Public Works Division, partnered with Johnson Controls through energy-saving performance contracts, is working to bring in the New Year with many plans to improve energy efficiency on base.

According to the Johnson Controls Web site, energy-saving performance contracts allow federal government agencies to make energy-efficient improvements and pay for them out of contractually guaranteed energy cost savings.

Over the course of the year, $25 million will be spent on major projects to include starting to build a new solar plant and cogeneration plant, a power station that generates both electricity and heat, in an effort to help the base become a more independent power source, said Gary Morrissett, the base energy manager. 

Currently, the base produces 60 percent of the power it uses, while the remaining comes from off base sources, Morrissett said.  Eventually, the base will produce roughly 90 percent of the power it consumes.

The base will be able to utilize about 80 percent of the energy produced from the cogeneration plant when the heat released from the power source is captured as energy, Morrissett said.  This energy can help to heat and cool other buildings.

Marines and base employees that work in flat top buildings will have a more pleasant work environment during the summer months.  Approximately 90 percent of all flat top building’s heating and cooling systems will have chilled water conversions with updated controls by the end of the year, Morrissett said.

The updated heating and cooling systems in each building will maintain 76 degrees during the summer and 70 degrees during the winter, Morrissett said.

One thing to note about the new temperature controlled system however is the controls take a temperature reading throughout various spots in each building.  If that area is affected by a personal heater or cooler, or if windows or doors are open, the reading will not be accurate and can cause the temperature of the entire building to be off, Morrissett said. 

In addition, the controls will also monitor carbon dioxide levels in the building. If a reading is high, the system will allow more fresh air into the building to maintain the safety and quality of the air, Morrissett said.

The energy savings will continue indoors by replacing lights with lower wattage light bulbs, Morrisett said.  The light bulbs will be replaced with 25-watt bulbs, which is seven watts less than what is currently used.  Watts are a way to measure a rate of energy conversion, the lower the wattage, the less power used.

Many of the indoor lights will be controlled by motion sensors, so lights turn off if no one trips the sensor after a time period, Morrisett said.  It may seem like small differences, but they all add up.  

In addition to the new solar lighting fixtures already installed along the physical fitness test course, tank crossings, and safety and sidewalk areas, all other outdoor lighting is going to be changed to help save energy by slicing their current wattage use in half, Morrissett said. 

“The orange tint lights will be replaced with induction lights,” Morrissett said.  “These lights will last, on average, three times longer, use less watts and still maintain the same brightness.”

In addition, all outside lighting on mainside will have dark-sky compliant fixtures to help minimize light pollution from the base, Morrissett said.

According to the International Dark-Sky Association Web site, light pollution is an adverse effect of artificial light, including sky glow, glare, light trespass and clutter, decreased visibility at night; and energy waste.  Dark-sky compliant fixtures direct the light to the ground, which helps reduce the risk of disrupting neighbors, wildlife and astronomers.

Future plans base energy employees and contractors have planned are to look into other ways to reduce energy consumption or find ways to use energy more efficiently.  One idea being developed is to establish a wind generated power source on base within the next five years, Morrissett said.

Life in the desert is different in many ways than life in a more urban setting.  Being able to use energy efficiently is not a luxury or a choice.  Knowing how to save energy and how important it is, is a lesson base personnel are learning and putting into practice every day.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms