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Academy focuses on energy conservation
The Air Force Academy has reduced its annual energy bill by $2 million to $3 million through energy conservation projects like the 18-acre solar array on the south end of the base. Continuing energy conservation efforts will examine information technology equipment and installation of energy-efficient street lights. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)
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Academy focuses on conserving energy

Posted 4/26/2013   Updated 4/26/2013 Email story   Print story


by Amber Baillie
Academy Spirit staff writer

4/26/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Every day, more than 3,000 personnel here burn Academy energy when they use their workspace appliances, contributing to a monthly electricity bill steep enough to buy a house.

Space heaters and dual computer monitors are just a few devices Russell Hume, a mechanical engineer with the Academy's Directorate of Installations, said Academy staff members could eliminate to conserve energy and lower the Academy's electrical cost.

"We found that across the Academy, it came to about 2-3 cents per square foot that the (Academy) could save by taking out what we would call unnecessary items," Hume said. "That doesn't sound like a lot but when you have 6.4 million square feet of installation, (but) it comes to about $185,000 a year the base could save by eliminating such things."

Last fall, Air Force Space Command issued a portable appliance policy to eliminate excess use of small appliances, resulting in a $10,000 energy cost reduction in one building alone. Hume said a similar policy here would have positive affects.

"I think people forget how many people are actually at the Academy and how much we actually do here," Hume said. "People should ask themselves, 'Do I really need this?' or 'Do I need to leave this plugged in all of the time?'"

Hume said the Academy is also looking into installing light emitting diode bulbs in all streetlights here to help cut energy costs.

"It's an expensive bulb but it's highly more efficient," Hume said. "Its 12 watts that mimics 40 watts of an incandescent bulb and can last up to 22.5 years. It looks like we'd save about $50,000 a year if we deploy LED streetlights throughout the base. The lights would save roughly 1 to 2 percent of our total energy."

Hume said he counted 186 personnel with dual computer monitors in Harmon Hall alone.

"I realized we may be using more energy than necessary," Hume said. "Staff can help save energy by eliminating these items that may or may not be necessary. I don't think too many people have dual monitors at their house."'

Hume said even if personnel were to use LED screens, the cost would still be steep.

"They'd still be about 75 watts," Hume said. "If you take that times 3,000 people times eight hours a day, it starts to add up. When you multiply by the size, it becomes real money and really impactful."

Hume said the Communications Directorate has also worked on printer consolidation to help lower energy use.

"There are quite a few printers and computers that are unfortunately on all the time and depending on how they're set, never go to a power-safe mode," Hume said. "I ask people to be conscious when using appliances at work. They should use them as if they were their own."

Hume said Fairchild Hall uses the most energy here due to its size, and the Academy's Aeronautics Lab uses the most energy per square foot. He also said the predominant energy source in the Air Force is aviation fuel.

"At least half of the graduating class will go on to be pilots," Hume said. "Professors here have been really involved in passing on that information, not only on energy use in our facilities but also when it comes to aviation. It's important for cadets to understand the impact."

Hume said another way the Academy could potentially conserve energy is to cool its facilities in the evenings.

"Having the building start out cooler in the morning would mean we wouldn't have to use as much energy to keep it cool as the day heats up," Hume said. "The objective is always to keep at our set points, 78 degrees in summer and 68 degrees in the winter."

Hume said despite utility rates increasing, the Academy has recently seen a drop in energy use.

"We pay about $6 million in energy a year, and that's decreased due to some of the technology we've deployed such as some of our solar projects here," Hume said. "A couple of years ago, the cost was up to $8 (million) or $9 million a year, so we really have saved money."

Hume said water use is also something to be conscious about this next year.

"The reservoirs are low and aren't making any more water," Hume said. "In the past 15 years I've worked here, I've seen the different weather cycles here. I remember the drought we saw in the early 2000s where water restrictions were enforced, and it seems we're now shifting back into that mode and mindset."

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