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Air Force Uses Big Data to Glean Energy Savings 


By Valerie Insinna 

The military increasingly is interested in software that can analyze massive amounts of data and provide intelligence on security threats, but Eglin Air Force Base in Florida is harvesting data for a more mundane cause: To cut down energy costs.

A team of engineering, energy and software companies is working on an energy management system for the base that will use more than 20,000 sensors in 100 buildings to gather information from light switches, valves, thermostats, air conditioners and other sources to pinpoint where savings can be found.

The system is projected to save the Air Force $2.5 million annually with a payback period of less than three years, said Bill Cull, vice president for the public sector at Splunk, a San Francisco-based software company specializing in big-data analytics.

Eglin Air Force Base now can build data on information such as the occupancy of buildings and the use of heating, ventilation and cooling units throughout the year, which will give its maintenance staff greater awareness of how energy is consumed, Cull said. “From there, maintenance staff can make adjustments in energy usage [and] track these trends over time.”

Personnel from the companies have been on site at Eglin for more than a year, said Brian Gilmore, program manager for McKenney’s, a mechanical contracting and engineering company also working on the system. Other businesses involved include Gulf Power and Chevron Energy Solutions.

Besides cutting energy costs, the Air Force can also use the data to identify when equipment isn’t working properly by comparing it to similar devices or past usage, Gilmore said.

McKenney’s is in talks with the military about expanding the project to other installations, Gilmore said, though he declined to say where or when.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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