Fort Riley, Kansas



Energy Branch looks toward brightening post’s future

By Dena O’Dell | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | June 11, 2014

Fort Riley’s future may have just gotten a little bit brighter in terms of energy cost savings and efficiency thanks to several ongoing projects being conducted by the Energy Branch, Engineering Division, Directorate of Public Works.

With a current budget of about $5 million from Army Utility and Energy, the Energy Branch has already started making upgrades to some of the post’s buildings, including replacing exterior fluorescent lighting with LED lighting, monitoring temperature controls inside on-post buildings and installing interior motion sensor lighting, among other things.

“(Installation Management Command) has put a high priority on energy savings,” said Norm Zuercher, chief, Energy Branch, Engineering Division, DPW. “It’s a priority for them because by spending that money now, they know they’re going to save in the future.”

A simple way to help calculate energy cost savings is by looking at something like lighting, according to Mike Witmer, mechanical engineer, Energy Branch, Engineering Division, DPW.

“You can calculate, (for example), these lights will use 32 watts per bulb, and if they run them 12 hours a day, you know how much money you’re going to spend,” he said. “But, if you put a motion sensor in, you may cut that time that they’re on to half, so you could actually calculate what your savings would be.”

And, something as simple as replacing an incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent light, or CFL, bulb can save $6.50 per bulb, per year, Witmer said.

That’s the kind of message Energy Branch representatives are trying to drive home to help Fort Riley save money in the future.

Projected total energy savings on all ongoing projects at Fort Riley is $650,000 a year, Zuercher said. So, if, for example, an LED bulb is replaced, and it has a shelf life of about 15 to 20 years, that bulb saves money every year as long as it has life.

“When you think in the broad terms of things … your energy bill that you pay – just the commodity – for electricity and gas a year on this installation, including the whole footprint, is roughly $20 million a year,” said Dan McCallister, public utility specialist, Energy Branch, Engineering Division, DPW. “If you reduce $20 million a year by $500,000, then that’s a pretty good number.”

Specific projects the Energy Branch has been focused on to date include changing streetlights from fluorescent to LED lighting on Custer Hill; adding interior motion sensor lighting and changing exterior fluorescent lighting to LED lighting at Camp Funston facilities; replacing exterior fluorescent lighting to LED lighting at all of the range facilities; and replacing interior lighting in about five DPW buildings.

Most of the upgrades have been made because of customer feedback and auditing on-post buildings to look for energy-saving opportunities, Zuercher said.

If DPW receives a work order or customer feedback with concerns in regard to a particular building – for example, if the lighting is insufficient in a motor pool – the Energy Branch team will go out and do an audit of that building, while also looking at what other upgrades can be made, Witmer said.

“We’ll address that specific problem and then run through the calculations to see what the payback on it will be and what the project cost will be, and then we’ll add additional (upgrades to) buildings that are similar to that as we need to,” he said.

The Energy Branch is always looking for ways to save the installation money and be energy efficient, McCallister said.

Some of the other energy-saving opportunities the team looks at include things that are on all the time in a building that could be shut off, like air conditioning systems that run 24/7, even when a building is unoccupied for a couple of days; faucets that don’t shut off; hot water that’s not hot or is too hot; changing the settings on air conditioning units by a couple of degrees; or installing insulation or replacing windows in buildings.

“It’s what we do anyway; it’s just part of our jobs. We constantly look for ways to be energy efficient and still meet the standards and requirements that everybody’s used to,” he said. “When it comes to energy, you just want to keep improving, and, at the same time, it never stops. We’re always going to find ways to save energy, whether it’s through technology or education – it just makes sense. Between budget reductions and everything else, it’s just what drives us. We’re here to save money.”

Customers who have an idea to help make their facility more energy efficient can call the Energy Branch manager at 785-239-6150.

“If they think it can save energy, call us,” McCallister said.

Tag Energy   Tag Energy Cost Savings