By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Since April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day, when 20 million Americans came together in one voice to promote a healthy and sustainable environment, conservation efforts have gained in priority, including for the Air Force. Now, 46 years later, Team Pete can claim a number of significant conservation projects that save money and valuable natural resources.
The annual utilities bill for Peterson Air Base alone tops $7 million, and Thule Air Base, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing headquartered at Peterson, comes in at nearly triple that — $20 million a year. The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron reports note that some buildings at Peterson run up $500 per day in utility costs.
Those numbers may seem shocking, but there is good news on the horizon. A focus on improving efficiency and updating decades old systems is helping to reduce costs and even add green energy sources to the mix for the wing.
Peterson was recognized for its environmental work, winning the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Gold Environmental Leadership Award in 2015. Voluntary water restrictions saved 130 million gallons of water, reducing water use intensity by 50 percent. A central irrigation system saved another 300,000 gallons amounting to $93,000 a year. Xeriscaping, a low maintenance landscape design, and turf reduction resulted in using14 million fewer gallons, saving $43,000 in maintenance. The turf reduction project became the model for all Air Force Space Command.
“For the installation, every day is Earth Day with its planning, vision, and goals of sustainability,” said Paul Poppert, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron landscape architect. “We are always looking for ways to conserve energy, manage storm water, reduce erosion, reduce the amount of water we use, and to enhance the environment through thoughtful landscape. The installation is always looking for ways to improve.”
Projects planned in the near future will lead to further conservation gains at Peterson. New boilers around the base, and replacing 20-year-old equipment will increase efficiency from 80 to 95 percent. What that means is that estimated savings in natural gas costs, $114,000 a year, will pay the project’s $800,000 price tag in just more than seven years. Replacing outdated chillers and boilers in a couple of buildings will improve efficiency and lower utility costs for heating and cooling.
Installing energy recovery units in the ventilation systems of dormitories recycles warm air from restrooms, kitchen areas and laundry rooms, lowering heating costs.
“In cold weather, the energy recovery units remove heat from the exhaust air stream and use the heat to preheat the air coming in the intake,” said Jim Jacobsen, 21st CES energy manager. “Up to 90 percent of the heat energy can thus be recycled in the building.”
Even seemingly small changes make a noticeable difference in conservation of resources. New dish rinse faucet heads were installed in seven buildings throughout Peterson, all at no cost. The faucets, about a dozen of them, were provided and installed by Colorado Springs City Utilities and each is expected to save $750 a year. Low flow, non-clogging shower heads were installed in the fitness and aquatic centers too.
“Not only do they reduce water use,” Jacobsen said, “the amount of hot water, and thus natural gas to heat the water, is reduced. Many of the faucet heads these replaced were clogged with lime from their many years of use.”
Because utility companies that provide energy to the 21st SW reward energy conservation efforts with rebates on utility bills, the wing has netted $225,000 in rebates since January 2015. Since October 2014, the wing identified almost 40 conservation projects estimated to save $1.25 million in annual energy costs, said Bill Bayles, 21st CES resource efficiency manager. These projects are currently competing at the U.S. Air Force level for funding.
Conservation and green energy efforts go beyond Peterson to wing GSUs. Two 1.6 megawatt wind generators were brought online at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts, in 2014, producing about 75 percent of the site’s electrical needs. For periods of time the turbines out produce the site’s needs, resulting in credits. Jacobsen said in the current fiscal year credits exceeding $800,000 came from the wind generators, $19,000 of which is in excess of use.
Another GSU, Clear Air Force Station, Alaska, reduced waste and emissions by shuttering its coal-fired energy plant and connecting to the local electrical grid. Even scaled down production at the plant, which was created to power older, more power hungry radar units, led to overproduction and wasted electricity. Now, the Air Force only buys the energy it needs and doesn’t have to burn coal.
Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota, higher efficiency cooling towers, pumping systems and a system providing free cooling to the mission building in winter, late fall and early spring was constructed.
“These mission systems require year round cooling,” Jacobsen said. “The new equipment provides this cooling without operating energy intensive mechanical refrigeration equipment.”
Jacobsen said individual Airmen can make a difference in energy consumption too. Doing simple things like turning off lights when not using them, not wasting time in showers, and not blocking air vents with furniture or equipment can add up. In the summer, blocking the sun from heating dorm rooms or offices by using shades or blinds can help, and so can raising the temperature on the thermostat by a few degrees when leaving the room.
For ideas on how to save energy visit:
• https://www.csu.org/Pages/residential.aspx and click the “ways to save” tab.
• 100 ways to save energy at home- https://www.progress-energy.com/carolinas/home/save-energy-money/energy-saving-tips-calculators/100-tips.page?