Dyess AFB model of energy conservation

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates
  • Air Force Print News
Dyess Air Force Base is going green.

Take a tour of the base and it's easy to see how. In one building, water is pumped from a small pond, turned into ice and used to cool several dormitories; the landscaping is irrigated using effluent water purchased from the city of Abilene, Texas; and eight hangars on the flightline have skylights that reduce the need for overhead lighting during the day.

At first glance, these improvements may seem small, but ask the base's civil engineers and conservation office personnel and they'll be the first to say just how big a deal these changes are.

"We're cutting our energy costs and usage," said Tom Denslow, the base energy manager. "And we're doing it on a daily basis using common sense practices."

The savings are not small, either. The base has already spent $1 million less on energy this year compared to the same time last year, according to the base's civil engineers.

"We've evolved from the days when we thought preaching the benefits of turning off the lights when you leave a room equated to energy conservation," said Michael Schultz, the deputy base civil engineer. "Now we're actively looking for ways to decrease our energy consumption and be good stewards of the environment as a base."

One way the base is accomplishing this is by instituting what it calls a "no heat, no cool" policy. Under this program, the air conditioning and heating units are turned off on the base from March to May and from October to November. The goal is to reduce the base's electric consumption.

So far, the policy is working. The base reduced its electric consumption by 10 percent from 2006 to 2007 and nearly 20 percent compared to the late 1990s.

"Yes, you might suffer a couple days," Mr. Schultz said. "But the end result is lower usage and savings that can be used in other areas across the base."

The base also built an "ice house" that cools several of Dyess' buildings. Water is pumped into the ice house and chillers freeze it using a water/glycol mix. The resulting slush is then pumped into the building's air conditioning systems during the day.

"We're saving money here, too, because the chillers are working at night, during off-peak hours when electricity is cheaper," Mr. Denslow said.

Even watering the grass has turned into a money- and resource-saving venture. The base purchases effluent water -- water that is purified, but not enough to drink -- to use for landscaping. The result is a savings of nearly $2 per 1,000 gallons and an estimated total yearly savings of $380,000.

This decision also reduces the amount of water used in the area.

"When we did that, we cut (Abilene's) water usage by two percent ourselves," Mr. Denslow said. "That may now sound like much, but in a climate like ours, that's actually pretty significant."

Workcenters are also in on the base's conservation kick. The base installed skylights in eight aircraft hangars that reduce the amount of artificial light needed during the day. It also replaced existing lights with dimmer switches, allowing maintainers to control the amount of light needed.

These two measures alone saved the base nearly $300,000 last year.

All of these programs and savings haven't gone unnoticed, either. The base has received 15 awards, including the Presidential Award for Leadership and the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Leadership Award. High-level Air Force, Department of Defense and Department of Energy officials also make frequent stops at Dyess AFB.

"And we're not done," Mr. Schultz said. "We've got other ideas and programs we're looking at all the time."

In the end, Dyess AFB's energy conservation programs work because leaders at all levels of the base are on board. And the Airmen and their families who live and work on the base are too.

Dyess AFB is all about going green -- and along the way the base is saving some.