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Academy hits conservation target

The U.S. Air Force Academy's solar array, pictured here May 13, 2011, occupies 41 acres of land on the Academy's southeast corner, adjacent to Interstate 25. The array, which comprises 18,888 solar panels, produced 12.5 million kilowatt-hours of power since it was activated July 1, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The U.S. Air Force Academy's solar array, pictured here May 13, 2011, occupies 41 acres of land on the Academy's southeast corner, adjacent to Interstate 25. The array, which comprises 18,888 solar panels, produced 12.5 million kilowatt-hours of power since it was activated July 1, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- In light of October being Energy Action Month, developed by the Department of Energy, U.S. Air Force Academy mission elements gathered Sept. 23, to discuss energy and utility savings for the year and analyze new efforts here to reduce costs and save energy.

From August 2013 - August 2014, the Academy reduced its electrical use by 3.3 million kilowatt hours and reduced its water use by 18 million gallons.

"The Academy has continued to reduce energy and water consumption over the past several years," said Russell Hume, a mechanical engineer with the Academy's directorate of installations. "Unfortunately, costs continue to climb. In 2015, we look to aggressively attack cost through initiatives and projects we are currently developing."

Based on the Air Force's Energy Strategic Plan to increase supply, reduce demand and change culture, the Academy developed nine key actions to decrease energy consumption and improve the environment including establishing net zero installation goals, reducing fuel costs, and apply education and awareness plans.

The Academy invested in high efficiency lighting last year, installing about 1,250 LED light fixtures throughout the base. The LEDs consume 40 percent less electrical energy at the same or higher lighting levels than high pressure sodium fixtures.

"We're in the works of installing 250 lights in base housing to complete the upgrade," Hume said.

The Academy's utility budget for the fiscal year is $11 million; from October 2013 through August 2014, the installation has expensed $10.4 million.

"We're right on target," Hume said.

Since the summer of 2013, the Academy mandated continued watering restrictions on base, established by Colorado Springs Utilities, decreasing water usage here.

"We implemented the restrictions as soon as CSU published them," Hume said. "Col. Stacey Hawkins' (the 10th Air Base Wing commander) team saved about 36 percent of water for the base."

Since 2008, petroleum fuel use here has significantly decreased, Hume said.

"We've had a 40 percent decrease during the last six years, exceeding our two percent per year goal," he said.

In April 2014, the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron initiated mock billings to Academy mission elements to educate Airmen and personnel on practical ways to reduce energy use. The bills show electric usage and electricity costs for each organization, allowing them to monitor use and employ operational changes to reduce consumption.

"We've been successful," Hume said. "Out of the 47 metered buildings at the Academy, the 306th Flying Training Squadron had the highest electrical reduction at 12 percent. There was a 3 percent reduction among all buildings compared to the year before."

The Academy is the net zero installation for the Air Force. To promote energy and water conservation practices, the installation plans to offer tours of the six-megawatt solar arrays here and at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, in Golden, Colorado, through October to cadets, faculty, staff and employees.

"We want to get the word out," Hume said. "We've already provided tours to half a dozen local schools and reservists from Fort Carson. The solar arrays remain to be about 12 percent of our energy supply here. The NREL is also a good thing to see because there is a net zero facility there."

Energy consumption is down but energy cost is up, Hume said.

"Our most energy-intensive facility at the Academy is the 10th Communications Squadron," he said. "The amount of energy it uses at its cost is still insignificant compared to Fairchild Hall. Its energy intensity is less but its cost per energy is significantly greater. We have to consider all of this to determine where to dedicate our resources."

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