Editor's note: Minot Air Force Base is right in step, if not ahead, in the U.S. Department of Defense's "going green" or focusing on energy efficiency. In this two-part series, The Minot Daily News is taking a look at the base's conservation measures, which also are saving taxpayers' money.
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Gary Lonning, chief of Asset Management with the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, remembers when they used to drive around the base after several inches of snow had fallen and the temperature was 20 below or so. Yet the sidewalks were clear of snow and dry without any shoveling.
"A lot of these hot temp, hot waterlines were in tunnels under the sidewalks, and were so inefficient all this heat was being transferred up," Lonning said. Of course, it did provide a benefit in that no one had to remove snow from the sidewalks.
Submitted Photo --
Drew Fegley, a subcontractor from Berthold, drills the wells for the ground-source heat pump system being installed at the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron building at Minot Air Force Base last fall.
The base has replaced its old central heat plant with energy-efficient boilers in each of the facilities the old plant was heating.
The central heat plant used coal years ago, then it was fuel oil and in the latest years it was natural gas, Lonning said.
"We had a system of high temp, hot water lines that connected most of our major facilities on base for heat. The system worked but it was pretty inefficient. We got rid of the heat plant and then we installed energy efficient boilers in each one of those facilities," Lonning said.
Base leads in decreasing energy consumption
How much has Minot Air Force Base decreased its energy consumption since 2003, the baseline year, and how does the base compare with other bases in Air Combat Command?
According to Steve Dumont, Air Combat Command Energy Program manager:
As of mid-fiscal year 2010 (March 31), Minot AFB has reduced energy intensity by 33 percent from the same time in fiscal year 2003, leading all other bases in Air Combat Command, Further, looking at the same mid-year point, Minot AFB has led the Air Combat Command pack for three of the last five years.
The federal goal for energy intensity reduction is 15 percent for fiscal year 2010, so Minot has achieved more than double the goal.
Minot AFB's 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing recently became units of Air Force Global Strike Command. Before Feb. 1, the bomb wing was a unit of Air Combat Command, with headquarters at Langley AFB, Va. Before Dec. 1, 2009, the missile wing was a unit of Air Force Space Command, with headquarters at Peterson AFB, Colo.
Although Minot AFB now is under Air Force Global Strike Command, Dumont said they are in a transition period in which Air Combat Command is still providing energy program support. He said there will be a July 4 hand-off agreement with Global Strike Command. After that, he said Global Strike Command will take over the full program responsibility but because Global Strike Command is still building its staff, Air Combat Command will provide support upon request. Michelle Price is the Global Strike Command energy manager.
Planning for that change started in about the 2004 timeframe. Contractualwise, it was about 2007 when it kicked off and then finished in about 2008, Lonning said.
"That was a tremendous amount of work but it saves a lot of money and resources of natural gas and emissions," Lonning said.
After going through all of that, he said, they started concentrating on how to make their existing systems more efficient.
The Air Force is the military's biggest energy consumer but it also is leading the U.S. Department of Defense's "going green" efforts, according to a report, "Reenergizing America's Defense," which was released in April by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The report says 37 bases now draw at least part of their power from renewable energy sources. To read the entire report, go to (www.pewclimatesecurity.org).
Minot AFB is right in step, if not pushing ahead, in the U.S. military's "going green" initiative of relying more on "clean" energy and spending less on conventional energy sources.
Besides replacing the old central heat plant with energy-efficient boilers at Minot AFB, other energy-efficient initiatives include:
* Installing ground-source heat pumps for heating and cooling numerous facilities, which is completed in some facilities and still being done in others.
* Family housing on base is being replaced, which means new furnaces and air conditioning, the latter which family housing did not have before. Previously the homes had window shakers so the new installation of central air also is more energy efficient.
* Increased use of nonfossil fuels alternative fuels such as E-85 and biodiesel.
* Continued lighting upgrades.
Lt. Col. Monte Harner, commander of the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, said many of the base's utility systems are original constructions that are 50 years old.
"Not only are they antiquated in high maintenance but they have lost their energy efficiency over time. So these efforts are focused efforts and they're focused at our larger facilities or facilities where we get the most bang for the buck, if you will, as far as energy efficiency," Harner said.
"The base will have 15 ground-source heat pumps in the larger buildings where they gain, like this building (Civil Engineer Squadron building), for instance, and the wing headquarters and several other large facilities," Harner said. "We get our biggest impact on those facilities." The facilities also include the new dormitories.
Energy conservation measures at the Minot base started well over 10 years ago, Lonning said. "We started doing lighting upgrades, going into energy-efficient light fixtures. I think we put those into well over 100 facilities on the base," he said.
They've also installed control systems for night setbacks on temperature, which have saved a lot of energy.
When the base started measures to concentrate on making the existing systems more efficient, Larry Johnson joined the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron staff.
"Along came Larry and all his vast knowledge in ground-source heat pumps. I believe we're probably leading most facilities in the Air Force in ground-source heat pump installations," Lonning said.
However, they noted that other installations are also working on such systems.
Geothermal is going into the new dormitories and also the dormitories being renovated. The engineers said one of the nice things about geo-thermal or "green energy" is in large facilities each room for living or working typically has its own thermostat individual heat controls.
The base started installing ground-source heat pumps in about 2006, Lonning said. "We have about 10 facilities equipped now, we've got some under construction and when we finish with this latest round of construction here within the year we'll have about 15 or 16 facilities on ground-source heat pumps."
"Altogether I think we're saving like $2 1/2 million a year off our utilities budget utility bills," Lonning said. "Typically before all this our natural gas would run about $4.8 million a year and electric was about $4 1/2 million. Of course, you have to normalize some of that because especially natural gas prices swing dramatically over a three- or four-year period, but even normalizing that we're still saving like $2 1/2 million."
The experts at the base on energy savings are looking at other ways to save too.
"We're going to continue on with ground-source heat pumps because they've been so successful," Lonning said.
"We're putting thermal equalizers in a lot of our high bay areas hangar areas. We've got some installed. We've got more going on. We're continuing some lighting upgrades," Lonning said.
"Now we're kind of looking at the heat pumps themselves," he said. He said they're working on a different design to install them to save even more by using them to transfer energy from areas that need cooling to areas that need heat.
"The big thing is the energy recovery," Johnson said. He said there's a rule now that if they redo a building all air that leaves a building goes through energy recovery unless it is toxic or real dirty.
"That helps in the summertime as much as it does in the winter because you're throwing cold air out, and when it goes through the energy change, you end up throwing hot air out and the cold air because it cools off the air, that's coming in. It saves about 75 percent," he said.
"The dorms are done that way too. I'm exhausting from all of the shower rooms in every room, and then I bring back in through the energy recovery ventilator fresh air to every room so they'll get some air which they weren't before, plus it centralizes all of the exhausts," Johnson said.
One new dormitory was completed and dedicated at the base this spring. The ground breaking was held for a second new dormitory when the first one was dedicated and work has begun on the second one, Harner said. Preparations for the third new dormitory will begin this month.
The 15 missile alert facilities in the Minot missile field will also be installed with ground-source heat pumps. The missile alert facilities have been running on fuel oil, which costs anywhere from $2 to $3 or so a gallon, Johnson said.
The missile alert facilities project is scheduled to start later this month, he said.
The work to changeover the missile alert facilities to ground-source heat pumps was funded with a congressional appropriation under the Energy Military Construction program, Harner said.
On Sunday, June 13, The Minot Daily News will run the second part of this series when it takes a look at the base's use of alternative fuels, flex vehicles and reduction of air emissions.