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Misawa officials save energy with a flip of the switch

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
 Last year, Misawa officials spent approximately $85,000 on the energy bill for airfield lights. With a simple flip of a switch, energy planners hope to cut that bill by two-thirds.

In early October, representatives in the 35th Operations Support Squadron airfield management office coordinated with Japan Air Self-Defense Force officials and began turning off airfield lights after the last aircraft landed at the end of the day.

According to electric meter readings, airfield lighting used approximately 793,000 kilowatts of energy last year. Although official comparisons will not begin until the end of October, early calculations suggest a two-thirds reduction in energy use, said Dave Lochtefeld, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron resource efficiency manager. That amounts to about $56,700 in savings annually.

The idea to turn off the lights was first proposed by Col. Robert L. Craig, 35th Fighter Wing vice commander.

"Late at night driving around the airfield, I'd see a field of hundreds of lights and knew it consumed a significant amount of energy," said Colonel Craig. "In the past, I've been at airfields where after flying operations ceased, airfield lights were shut down. By shutting our lights off after normal operating hours, Misawa Air Base can still execute our mission while saving substantial amounts of money."

The suggestion was presented to Mr. Lochtefeld who worked with the airfield manager to implement the change.

"It's great to get suggestions by other people on ways to save energy, and this is a win-win," said Mr. Lochtefeld. "Typically, our energy initiatives cost money. This is $0 cost to implement, and we now see instant savings."

Implementation of the energy-saving idea simply required coordination and a formal request letter from the 35th Operations Group commander, said Senior Master Sgt. Charles Washington, 35th OSS airfield manager. During the hours between dusk and dawn, the runway edge and threshold lights, approach lighting, airfield signs and taxiway lights are only turned on when there is incoming or outgoing air traffic. It only takes a few computer inputs and about 30 seconds to turn all the lights on. The quick process of turning the lights on ensures mission safety, stressed Sergeant Washington.

"The lights are very critical to flight safety," he said.  "They show the path to the beginning of the runway, outline the edge and end of the runway, and provide a lighted path to the parking spots.  Turning them off does not impede the mission at all because they are only turned off when there is no activity. Anytime aircraft are moving or inbound, the lights are on."

Turning off airfield lights is just one example of how Misawa officials are always looking for ways to save resources, to be wise stewards of taxpayer money and effectively use these funds to improve mission effectiveness and quality of life, said Colonel Craig.

Additionally, the airfield lights initiative contributes to Misawa's overall energy reduction plan. The Air Force Infrastructure Energy Strategic Plan calls for Air Force bases worldwide to reduce energy usage 20 percent by 2020. To reach this goal, Misawa has a target goal of 3 percent energy reduction each year. This goal was met in 2008 and 2009. Mr. Lochtefeld said he believes the airfield lights initiative, as well as additional projects like motion-sensor lighting, advanced electric meters, low-flow shower heads and upgrades to heating, put Misawa on track to reach the 3 percent reduction goal for 2010 as well.