Army’s Energy Upgrades Paid For With Savings

After that story highlighting a stupid wind project, we feel compelled to come back with something positive (because we love wind, we really do): The U.S. Army is putting in three wind medium-sized wind turbines at a Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico, part of a multipronged effort to use less power and water at the base.

Here’s what’s especially good about the project (and what distinguishes it from the Ann Arbor plan we skewered): This entire project is paid for with the savings the upgrades themselves yield.

u.s. army fort buchanan energy upgrades

Workers installing a 275-kilowatt wind turbine at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico (image via U.S. Army)

That’s because the Army is using a mechanism called an Energy Savings Performance Contract – the ol’ ESPC – to make it happen. As the Army explains it:

An ESPC is a partnership between the Army and an energy services company. In consultation with the federal government, the energy services company provides capital and expertise to make comprehensive energy and water efficiency improvements on facilities, or implements new renewable energy capability and maintains them in exchange for a portion of the generated savings.

Johnson Controls is the company pulling together the Fort Buchanan upgrades, and late in 2011 a company project development consultant explained to Greentech Media the thinking behind the most visible aspect of the Fort Buchanan makeover: three 275-kilowatt wind turbines. These aren’t at the scale of the 1.5-megawatt or so turbines we see at big wind farms, but they do move beyond the “small wind” category that can be thought of as anything up to 100 kilowatts.

“Wind has the advantage of being one of the most, or the most, cost-effective renewable technology when it’s on a good site,” Jesse Stowell told Greentech Media’s Herman K. Trabish. “So it often doesn’t need as much help from the bundle as other renewables.” And, he said, “It’s also very appealing for customers, because after they do all this efficiency work, which is essentially invisible to the untrained eye, they can put up this wind turbine. It’s a big statement: the bow you tie on your efficiency work.”

The first of the three turbines was up and producing energy on April 19, the Army said, with the other two to follow.

Meanwhile, other efficiency upgrades at the base include:

  • replacing an air-cooled chiller;
  • installing an energy management controls system;
  • upgrading a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system and window/split air-conditioning system;
  • installing energy-efficient interior and exterior lighting including LED street lighting; installing occupancy sensors; installing a 1.2 megawatt solar photovoltaic system and a solar thermal water heating system;
  • and installing a water/sewer conservation and irrigation system, which is forecast to save 37,144,000 gallons of water per year. Upgrades will also be made to the existing commissioning services.

The impetus for this work is a $4 billion, public-private Obama administration initiative undertaken in late 2011 to promote energy efficiency upgrades during 2012 and 2013.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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