AMC energy experts: ‘Every month should be Energy Awareness Month’

14 Oct 2008 | Mark D. Diamond

October is Energy Awareness Month and, although the month-long observance highlights the importance of energy conservation, Air Mobility Command energy experts said every month needs to be Energy Awareness Month.

Based on Defense Department and Air Force figures, there's a good reason for the command to focus daily on energy-saving programs. In the Defense Department, the Air Force is the No. 1 consumer of energy; and in the Air Force, AMC is the largest consumer. According to the Defense Energy Support Center, Mobility Air Forces use of aviation fuel consumes approximately 42 percent of all Air Force energy usage.

Recent Air Force statistics show the service consumed almost 2.5 billion gallons of aviation fuel in fiscal year 2007 at a cost of nearly $5.6 billion. When including energy to operate bases and to fuel ground vehicles, the Air Force's total energy bill was almost $7 billion.

In January 2007, Executive Order 13423, signed by President George W. Bush, required a 3 percent reduction per year on energy use until 2015.

This may be a hefty challenge, but with an energy strategy that includes everything from facility energy reduction and alternative fuels testing, to aircraft and ground vehicle energy-saving initiatives, AMC is leading the way in energy reduction programs.

According to Steve Kalmer, AMC command energy manager and utilities engineer, one of the biggest energy reduction programs in the command involves the decentralization of base heat plants.

In the past, centralized heat plants piped steam across the base to heat facilities during cold-weather months. Mr. Kalmer said up to 50 to 55 percent of that heat could be lost during the trip from the heat plant to far-away facilities.

In AMC, almost all steam plants have been decentralized (the command is currently working to decentralize the steam plants at McGuire AFB, N.J., Dover AFB, De., and McChord AFB, Wash.). The new, localized boilers (smaller heat plants located at each base facility) are already producing results.

"At Andrews Air Force Base (Md.), after they decentralized two steam plants -- and in conjunction with other measures, including infrared heat and lighting conservation -- the base saw a nearly-60 percent energy reduction," Mr. Kalmer said. "Ultimately, that leads to a lower energy bill."

The command is also looking at replacing lighting systems at every AMC base; from high- and low-pressure sodium and high intensity discharge lighting to compact fluorescent lighting. Mr. Kalmer said using compact fluorescent lights can produce up to a 30 percent energy savings, which also leads to smaller utility bills.

He said the command is also installing utility meters at individual facilities, which allows the base to monitor energy usage (gas, electric, steam and water) at individual facilities to determine which buildings are high-energy consumers. "Once a building is identified as a 'high-energy consumer,' the base can focus its efforts on that building and determine what types of strategies can be used to reduce energy usage there," explained Mr. Kalmer.

He said one method of managing base-wide facility energy usage is through an Energy Management Control System, or EMCS. The EMCS is a centralized facility that controls the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems for an entire base. Mr. Kalmer said most AMC bases have smaller EMCS systems. "Our goal is to expand the EMCS system at each AMC base and actively monitor the consumption of utilities at all base facilities."

Mr. Kalmer has been the command energy and utilities manager for nearly six years. He said a lot has changed.

"When I started this job, fuel and utility prices were not nearly as high, and energy wasn't as big of an issue," he said. "Things have changed significantly in the past five years. Besides reducing the cost of energy, energy reduction helps us be good stewards of our resources and good stewards of taxpayer money."

He said energy reduction is also another path to upgrading Air Force infrastructure, or base facilities. "Upgraded facilities help us save energy, save money and offer a better working environment," added Mr. Kalmer. "Basically, energy conservation is a win-win situation for everyone."

Although current AMC energy-saving projects are already yielding results, the command isn't resting on its laurels. There are many more programs, projects and new technologies the command is looking at.

Mr. Kalmer said one new program that has promise is called "daylight harvesting." He said daylight harvesting involves a solar collector on the roof that "pipes" sunlight into the individual office spaces. "As the sun rises, increasing the amount of available natural light, digital sensors automatically adjust the level of electric lighting, creating a balance of electric and natural light," Mr. Kalmer explained. "The result is lower energy consumption and smaller utility bills."

Other worthwhile facility energy-reduction efforts include building energy awareness programs at each base; creating full-time energy manager positions throughout the command; and forming a command-level award program that rewards those bases that make energy conservation a top priority.

Mr. Kalmer said it's not just about programs and projects; it's about creating a culture within the Air Force that recognizes the importance of energy conservation.

"We want our bases to treat every month as Energy Awareness Month," added Mr. Kalmer.
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit