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Energy & Climate Change 

In the U.S. Military, Energy-Saving Projects Proliferate 


By Jeff Smith 

The U.S. military has been working on large and small green projects in recent years.

The Air Force is recognized as a leader in energy efficiency, with such landmark projects as the Nellis Solar Power Plant in Nevada, the second largest photovoltaic project in the world.

It also counts the largest LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) project in the nation with the 700-unit plus housing project at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.

But, said Dennis Firman, director of the Air Force’s Center for Environmental Excellence, “The easy wins we already accomplished.”

Capt. John Hickey, the Coast Guard’s commanding officer of the integrated support command in Honolulu, said a tidal surge in 2005 that came within a few feet of the buildings at Port Clarence, Ala., is a great example of how global warming is affecting the Coast Guard.

He noted that the Coast Guard has replaced diesel generators and 1,000-watt lamps with solar panels and LEDs (light emitting diodes) at lighthouses, installed photovoltaics at the Coast Guard training center at Petaluma, Calif., and is using stern flaps to reduce fuel use by some of the energy-hogging cutters.

At his command in Hawaii, energy consumption was cut by 14 percent, thanks to such changes as a high-efficiency chiller, more efficient lighting, and the installation of a solar hot-water system.

A photovoltaic car in the maintenance shop may not do a lot to reduce energy consumption, but it “bought a lot of buy-in from the shop,” Hickey said, adding the mechanics then asked what else they could do.

Seventy-five percent of the Navy’s fuel consumption is by tactical ships and planes. “That’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room for us,” said Capt. Chip Cotton, director of the Navy’s energy coordination office.

About 16 percent of the energy is nuclear, and the Navy also is looking at hybrid engine technology. The Navy is shifting more flight training hours to simulators to conserve energy, though there’s a “little bit of sensitivity” about that among pilots. Cotton stressed: “We’re not going to do this by cutting back on our capabilities.”

Examples of energy-efficient projects include the China Lake geothermal plant in California, a wind farm at Guantanamo Bay, a solar power parking garage at the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, and fuel cell test vehicles at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

“We need to make every stitch count,” said Janice Dombi, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Pacific Division.

She cited the number of military installations that have been cleaned up and restored to a pristine state including a facility at Tres Rios in the Phoenix area.                                
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