Summer to bring new energy projects

The Academy will begin new energy-savings initiatives over the summer, including a plan to replace incandescent street lights with light-emitting diodes and micro-grid technology that could supply power to critical base systems in an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

The Academy will begin new energy-savings initiatives over the summer, including a plan to replace incandescent street lights with light-emitting diodes and micro-grid technology that could supply power to critical base systems in an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- This summer brings with it the potential for a new wave of energy initiatives at the Academy that will range from changing light bulbs to implementing test technology to reduce cost and save energy.

"Probably one of the biggest things projected to start this summer is the replacement of all the street lights with LED bulbs," said Russell Hume, a mechanical engineer with the Academy's Installations Directorate. "Right now there are different kinds of technology being used and not many of the bulbs last more than 10 years. The LED bulbs, however, are expected to last 22 years and the savings should be $50,000 a year as well as an electrical savings of 1-2 percent base wide."

The project is paid for by the Energy Focus Fund, an Air Force energy project fund and the project idea had to compete with other projects based on a savings-to-investment ratio, Hume said.

"According the Air Force policy, all projects have to have at least a 1:1 ratio, or pay for itself over the product's economic life for the Air Force to even consider funding it," Hume said.

Three other energy-saving projects at the Academy are currently in the works. The micro-grid, a miniature electrical grid inside the Academy's main grid, is use used to power critical infrastructure at the Academy should power be lost everywhere else, Hume said.

"This grid would give energy security, as well as reliability that we have a source that can provide power to places like the 10th Medical Group facilities internally," he said.

The second project, which would feed into the micro-grid, is an energy storage design.

"This technology would be something that could work with our current solar panels to store that extra energy and it has the potential to save an unknown amount of money," Hume said.

Smart box technology, a building control technology being tested by Seimens, costs the Academy nothing to try but if proven to be effective, it could be deployed across the installation.

"Smart box technology will allow the buildings to 'talk' to each other to see what can be given up energy-wise to meet a goal," said Tom Hykes, a 10th Civil Engineer Squadron resource efficiency manager. "The box, which runs the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment, (could) look at the upcoming weather projections to make energy decisions instead of running according to a time clock."

This would mean that if a day was probably going to be cloudy, there wouldn't be as much of a need to turn on the air conditioning and the building could save that energy. Additionally, ventilation systems could run according to individual building needs instead of based on general calculations.

"The estimated energy savings, according to Seimens, is 40 percent," Hykes said. "If it works, we have the option of keeping it, and there is the potential of another test happening that would expand the technology further across the Academy."

The smart box technology testing is projected to take place in Arnold Hall from May through August.

Projects are also underway to conserve water at the Academy, Hume said.

"A redesign of the north gate median, which is the first phase of the project, is aimed at reducing the amount of water used," he said. "We hope to save gallons of water with this redesign and eventually extend the project from the North gate to the South gate."

Another means of saving water is a water leak survey, which is in the programming phase, but would measure how much water is being wasted, Hume said.

These projects and other initiatives should not only help lower Academy electric bills, but should also help conserve limited resources and add to designs already in place, he said.