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Energy Conservation a Priority, Group Effort at McChord

By Tyler Hemstreet
Special to American Forces Press Service

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash., Oct. 4, 2006 – Over the past 20 years, the Air Force has reduced facility energy usage by 30 percent by incorporating energy conservation into operations -- without impacting the mission. – And the Air Force is pushing to cut usage another 20 percent by 2015.

For the last two years, McChord Air Force Base officials have worked with Bonneville Power Administration in Washington to continue to incorporate energy conservation into daily operations, said Andrea Griffin, deputy chief maintenance engineer for the 62nd Civil Engineer Squadron here.

Members of the 62nd CES have worked hard to cut usage in several areas.

"If we rely on the old 'turn your thermostat back' (mentality), we aren't going to get there," Griffin said.

Projects like installing complete lighting retrofits to 90 different buildings and thorough energy audits to see what heating or cooling systems need to be replaced have produced the greatest amount of savings, she said.

By keeping a close eye on the Energy Monitoring Control System on their computers, engineers can watch and control the temperature inside more than 50 buildings on base. They can also troubleshoot any problems with the system from their desks.

"Sometimes problems can be fixed with the click of a button," Griffin said.

The effort placed on maintenance and keeping the system running leak and malfunction-free is the key to conserving energy, she added. The challenge for McChord AFB officials is to keep trying to reduce energy usage even though the base is growing. "We just have to be persistent in it," she said.

Energy usage at McChord AFB has changed over the years, said John Yeager, of the 62nd CES.

By replacing several World War II-era buildings lacking insulation with newer, well-insulated buildings, Yeager said the energy efficiency per square foot is now much greater.

While the Energy Monitoring Control System cost nearly $1 million to install, the energy the system saves will pay for itself in the long run, as long as it gets the proper maintenance.

One thing remains constant: the desire to find new methods to conserve. "Technology just keeps improving," Yeager said. "You are always looking at where to put the money and which energy source is cheaper."

Simple steps like turning off a light when leaving a room and being aware about energy consumption also help, he said.

To assist in the efforts to communicate the Air Force's energy strategy, every airman should develop new ways to personally and organizationally conserve energy, Michael W. Wynne, secretary of the Air Force, wrote in his September Letter to Airmen.

"Your efforts in making energy conservation a part of your day-to-day activities will benefit our entire Air Force and free up precious dollars for other critical programs," he said.

(Tyler Hemstreet works for 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs.)

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