MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Minot Air Force Base is going green, pulling climate control from the very Earth itself.
Ground-source heat pumps have beeen installed in a number of buildings at the base in past months. Plans are for the system to go in more buildings and in the Minot missile field. Ground-source heat pumps tap the stored energy in the Earth to provide heating and cooling for buildings.
The base has the distinction by Air Combat Command for having the most ground-source heat pumps. The 5th Bomb Wing, the host wing at the Minot base, is a unit of Air Combat Command.
Eloise Ogden/MDN --
Part of the system that Larry Johnson, design engineer with the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, designs are energy recovery ventilators, shown here with Johnson in a dormitory being renovated at Minot Air Force Base that is being installed with ground-source heat pumps.
"Minot has by far more GSHP (ground-source heat pump) projects than any other ACC base," said Steve Dumont, energy program manager for Air Combat Command.
Dumont said the base also is the only ACC base that has the expertise to have designed several of its GSHP projects in-house.
Larry Johnson, with the base's 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, is the design engineer for the ground-source heat pumps. He is the only certified geoexchange designer in North Dakota.
The Air Force is mandated by 2015 to reduce its energy consumption across the board 30 percent. "We're heading in the right direction," Johnson said, in an interview about the ground-source heat pumps.
It was Johnson's idea to install ground-source heat pumps in base buildings. He observed that a large amount of steam was being released which meant a lot of energy and a lot of money in natural gas was being wasted.
Wondering what would be the most efficient system, he did some research.
He said he knew about heat pumps but there weren't many in North Dakota, and they didn't work as well as they do now.
"They don't create energy," he said. "They transfer energy."
Johnson began working on the ground-source heat pump project at the base about five years ago and several of the systems have been installed. Others are in the works.
Ground-source heat pumps are being installed in the two new dormitories being built on the base. Dormitories being renovated also are being installed with ground-source heat pumps.
"Part of my systems are also energy recovery ventilators. I do not exhaust any air out of a building unless it goes through energy recovery," Johnson said. "It saves almost as much as the heat pump."
Several other buildings also have ground-source heat pump systems, including a fairly recent installation at the bomb wing headquarters building The systems involve ground-source heat pumps installed in the buildings and exterior wells to provide the heating and cooling.
"Basically, if it's heated and air-conditioned, everything that's new is going to have the system," Johnson said.
"We're also going to do the missile alert facilities. There's 15 of those," he said. The missile alert facilities are the manned facilities in the Minot missile field and are under the 91st Missile Wing.
Johnson said another large project will be the police station. "And we're looking at a few more," he said.
Johnson said at first, people weren't convinced that ground-source heat pumps were the thing to do. But once they saw how they worked, he said, they really got behind them.
He added the system is cost-saving and the heat pumps require very little maintenance.
With natural gas, Johnson said it costs about $10 to put a million BTUs (British thermal units) in a building. "With ground-source heat pumps it costs about $2 to $2.50," he said.
The base and Johnson's work with ground-source heat pumps have been featured in national publications. Johnson said he gets calls from other bases about the work being done here.
"Minot is ranking high on energy savings," he said, adding that the ground-source heat pumps are meeting his expectations,
"Most of my systems are performing better than I thought," he said.
Verendrye Electric Cooperative is the electric provider for the base.