by P. A. Tezuka
SMC Public Affairs
7/13/2010 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The energy department of the 61st Civil Engineer and Logistics Squadron recently finished the final portion of its three-phase construction of a photovoltaic panel project, completing the north-side parking lot of the base, May 27, 2010. Using state-of-the-art panels, the "PV Canopy Project" is part of Los Angeles AFB's $2.1 million Energy Reductions Project and will measurably cut the base's energy consumption and money paid for energy cost each month.
"The Air Force is leading the way right now with renewable energy-type of projects," said Ed Wilson, 61 CELS project manager. "We compare ourselves with the civilian world; the Air Force is pretty close to being neck-and-neck with getting into the 'green' business."
"The 12-foot high 'T-Span' structure stands on a central column with a roof extending on either side," said Wilson. "Built above the existing parking spaces, it eliminates the standard four-posted structure, making it easier for vehicles to maneuver around them. It is high enough so personal vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks, and standard utility vehicles can easily park underneath it. The approximately 42-feet wide by 700-feet long roof provides vehicles a welcome shade during hot, sunny days," he said.
"Definitely, it does have benefits," said Wilson. "The vehicles parked under the canopies will also be more comfortable when entering, and drivers will be using less gasoline because they will not have to turn on their air conditioning units as much to cool down their vehicles," he said.
The 5-degree, western tilt of the panels are designed to maximize the afternoon sun, which coincides with the peak demand on energy used by the base.
"One of the biggest benefits to the base is that the greatest amount of energy that will be produced by the solar panels at the time when we have the greatest time of demand for energy, typically in the afternoon," said Wilson. "So when we're using this energy, it's saving us on what's called the 'demand profile' ... we will not be using as much utility-monitored energy at that peak period. We are able to reduce peak demand and cost, which is pretty significant to the base. It's a great benefit to us."
The energy collected by the PV system will be used everywhere else on base from lighting, to heating and cooling the buildings, to running the computers. Since energy costs are paid to Southern California Edison from the base's operating budget, the savings will be spent on other projects which will improve the quality of life for base personnel.
"Whatever we produce [from the solar panels], we will not draw off the Edison meter," said Wilson. "All the energy that is produced will be consumed by the base. On the Edison meter, it will show less energy consumption," he said.
Wilson said the project is two-fold - saving the base money and saving California's energy. In addition, by going "green" with the use of the solar panels, Los Angeles AFB is contributing to the global conservation of ever depleting natural resources.
"Yes, it's a green source," Wilson said. "We are using a non-fossil-fuel-based source for the base by using solar energy. It benefits everybody. It puts less stress on the grid, which reduces the necessity to provide new electrical infrastructure outside of the base for the taxpayers...and at the same time reduces our electrical usage, thereby reducing our cost, which again has the advantage of reducing the burden on taxpayers," he said.
Producing energy through Green Power also brings the United States a step further from being reliant on foreign oil, reducing the vulnerability of being dependent on other countries.
Unlike private industries, which make their economic decision based on the immediate profit margin, government institutions can look ahead into the future when planning for an energy-saving project. The bottom line is to spend the available budget the best way possible.
"We're not here to make a profit," said Wilson. "We're here to save the taxpayers' dollars, and so, therefore, we have the advantage of looking at the bigger picture."
The construction of this project was managed by a company called SEI, which was hired by the Air Force Civil Engineering Support Agency, and manages the Energy and Conservation Investment Program activities for the Air Force.
Other energy reduction projects which CELS is currently working on include upgrading the heating and air conditioning control systems used to provide occupant comfort within the buildings, and roof-top PV panels for even more energy and dollar savings.