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Solar wall saves Air Force money

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross
  • 3rd Wing Public Affairs
Air Force officials installed their first solar wall here in November 2008, and have saved the base $15,000 in energy bills so far.

Francis Sheridan, the Elmendorf Air Force Base resource efficiency manager, was responsible for brainstorming the idea to install solar walls on the west and east sides of the 3rd Logistics Readiness Squadron as a way to save the Air Force money.

"It is a passive solar heating system, said Mr. Sheradin, explaining how the solar wall works. "It's a preheat for our outside air. It's a perforated piece of sheet metal that hangs outside in ideal situations."

He said once the air is ventilated inside the building, it is already 10 degrees or more warmer than the outside temperature. This means less energy is being used to heat the air, which saves money.

Even though the solar wall is an efficient money saver, it is not all that new. The solar wall was developed after much research and several prototypes done by John Hollick, president of the Conserval Engineering Inc., located in Toronto.

"It actually works better on cold winter days when there's snow on the ground," Mr. Hollick said. "The snow will reflect up to 50 percent more sunlight. It is ideally suited for Northern latitudes."

"More than 1,000 of these systems are out there. We have them in about 30 countries and most took place in the last six years," Mr. Hollick said.

Mr. Hollick said the solar wall wasn't initially a big hit when it was first invented because fuel cost was still reasonably low. However, since the high rise in fuel costs during the past decade, ways to conserve energy in some areas has become a top priority.

"The people who put them in seem to really like them. I think it's the fact there's no maintenance with it, Mr. Hollick said. It does provide a lot of energy on a sunny day it should heat the air between 30 to 40 degrees."

As far as for its durability, Mr. Hollick said, "The solar panel itself should last as long as the building because it has no moving parts. It's all metal construction."

So far, about 10 of the solar wall structures have been installed at eight Air Force bases in the past six years and future plans for more are under way.