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NEWS | Dec. 18, 2012

Journey beneath the surface of the earth: 633rd CES taps into geothermal energy

By Airman 1st Class Teresa Aber 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

What if you found an energy resource that wouldn't burn fossil fuels such as coal, gas or oil? What if that source was available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? What if that source could save your community an average of $344,000 a year? How would you use it to benefit the community?

There are approximately 50 construction projects planned for Langley Air Force Base. Possibly the most ground breaking project to improve the base involves the 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron working with contractors to bring geothermal energy, energy that is generated and stored within the Eart,  to the Air Combat Command campus.

"This project will eliminate the use of electricity or natural gas to create heat," said Dan Porter, 633rd CES chief of construction management. "Instead of using cooling towers or boilers, we will use ground source wells to heat and cool buildings."

These wells consist of a system of pipes buried approximately 400 feet below the earth's surface. The planet absorbs 47 percent of the sun's energy, in the form of clean, renewable energy. The buried pipes take this heat and use it to bring warmth to buildings in the winter, and cool buildings during the summer.

By using these geoexchange systems, Joint-Base Langley Eustis is expected to save approximately one percent of the base's energy, and 11 percent of its annual water consumption.

Compared to the current operation cost of boilers, cooling towers and pump stations, the estimated cost to maintain a ground source heat pump system is expected to be approximately $189,243 lower each year.

While ACC personnel will experience uninterrupted heating and cooling efficiency at their work centers, they can expect diminished parking availability during the construction. According to Porter, the wells are being buried beneath two of the largest parking lots on the campus, as well as next to the Langley Marina - making these parking spaces unusable while the wells are being drilled.

However, the parking situation is a small discomfort compared to the benefits of greenhouse gas reduction; is estimated to eliminate 662 metric tons, equivalent to the emissions from electricity used in 99 homes each year.

Personnel can expect construction on these geoexchange systems, including repaving parking lots, to be completed by May 2013.

"It is a long, drawn-out process," said Porter. "But the resources we will be saving will make it worth it in the end."