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NEWS | Feb. 12, 2013

Conscious conservation: JBLE's response to energy-saving goals

By Airmen 1st Class Austin Harvill and R. Alex Durbin 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30 percent of all energy used in buildings nationwide is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. If 10 percent of this energy was reduced in the United States, the savings would equal $20 billion.

During the past fiscal year, the U.S. Air Force alone spent double the amount of money on fuel and electricity as it did a decade ago, according to Donald White, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron base energy manager and utility engineer.

"Energy efficiency is a big priority," White said. "Legislation and Executive Orders have come down the pipe for all branches of the military to cut back on energy use."

To be exact, Joint Base Langley-Eustis must cut back energy consumption by 3 percent every year until 2015. The task of conserving energy at JBLE falls on White and his colleagues at the 633rd CES and Fort Eustis' 733rd Civil Engineer Division.

Before JBLE can even begin working on conservation, they must quantify the projects by gathering information on the base's energy systems so leadership can be notified.

"Back in 2010, we did numerous studies to determine the efficiency of our systems at Langley," said White. "We then compiled those figures into an Energy Management Steering Group so we could show our results to Langley senior leadership."

An EMSG is critical for 633rd CES officials to proceed with any projects on base. The 633rd Air Base Wing vice commander and other senior commanders sit in on the briefing conducted by the base energy manager. After the manager briefs the leadership, the 633rd CES presses forward with the projects.

"This year, we have five projects approved to work on," said White. "Most of our work will be on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and lighting."

Although all the projects will be worked more-or-less simultaneously, they are tracked separately in the EMSG. Also, since these projects are on-going, it is important to note the figures and costs mentioned are projections in order to quantify and validate the importance of the projects.

The first four projects all deal with fixing, updating or replacing HVAC system components in multiple facilities. Together, these four projects are projected to save the Air Force approximately $492,000 a year and reduce Langley's total energy consumption by 6.2 percent. According to cost analysis statements, these efforts will return their investment in about a decade, which is White's preferred time frame.

The last project covers lighting across the board for Langley. White plans to change the fluorescent lights in every building to a lower-wattage, high-efficiency variant. This project will save the Air Force about $66,000 a year, and will pay for itself in a little more than five years.

Similar energy efficient projects at Fort Eustis have saved a total of over $3.2 million from May 2011 to April 30, 2012, exceeding preliminary estimates. These projects include new construction such as the recently completed Warrior-in-Transition campus, the first U.S. Army-owned and Corps of Engineers-constructed platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified facility, at Fort Eustis.

"These projects mean a great deal for Service members," said Peter Phan, 733rd CED energy manager. "Savings gained through these projects are used to fund new energy-savings projects, which in turn gives Airmen and Soldiers a more comfortable space to work and live."

With the current economic climate, cost analysis is an important aspect of planning, but White emphasized the importance of saving energy.

"Our direction from our government asks us to save energy," said White. "We need to find new processes and equipment to preserve resources."

The changes made to the HVAC systems and the lighting systems should alleviate future non-preventative maintenance since new equipment tends to last longer than older counterparts.

While all of this maintenance and measurement is necessary, there are new devices in place to quicken the process to help White reach the annual requirement of energy consumption.

"Most all of the new systems we are implementing will be attached to special meters," said White. "These meters are attached to our computer systems, so compiling data on their energy consumption will be easier in the future."

White's tasks may seem daunting, but he knows what it really means to save energy beyond simply meeting a quota.

"All of the work I do saves money to give back to the mission and our Airmen," said White. "Beyond that, saving energy is a gift not only to the Air Force or the United States -- it is a gift to mankind as a whole."