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Navy Lowering Upfront Costs to Save Energy

June 21, 2010 - 11:23am


This hangar at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi received an energy-efficiency makeover that included major lighting retrofits and water conservation measures. | Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy

This hangar at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi received an energy-efficiency makeover that included major lighting retrofits and water conservation measures. | Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy


A project started last year at a U.S. Navy base in Meridian, Miss., that will save thousands in taxpayer dollars has been successfully completed.

The $3.2 million Energy Conservation Project contract was awarded last year by Naval Facilities Engineering Command to reduce energy consumption at Naval Air Station Meridian. The project, awarded to Atmos Energy Corp., a Dallas-based utility company, wrapped up in April 2010.

Extreme hangar makeover

Lt. Cmdr. Lance Coe, the installation's public works officer, says that while about 20 buildings were retrofitted there, the Navy focused primarily on the base's largest consumer of energy — the hangar, where maintenance is performed for Training Air Wing One, which includes two squadrons, or about 80 aircraft total.

The hangar started out with sodium lamps — the kind found warming up in  most high-school gyms. Today, the hangar lights are all high-efficiency fluorescents.

"We're going to see a lot of savings there from the lighting changes alone," Coe says. "And it's going to really benefit the workers because the old lights had a dimmer, yellow tint, but these new lights give out a very bright, white light so they can see what they are doing a lot better."

Other improvements at the hangar include motion sensors for lights in offices and restrooms, heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades, valve replacements and the installation of electric control boxes for temperature settings. The stimulus behind the upgrades comes from a presidential mandate for the Department of Defense to cut its energy use 30 percent by 2015. This project is expected to help Meridian get very close to meeting that goal, which means upcoming planned projects such as the installation of solar panels could help the station surpass its objective.

"We're continually coming up with new and innovative ideas on how to save energy," Coe says.

Paying with savings

The energy efficiency improvements were made with a lower upfront cost to taxpayers than if the Navy paid for all of the upgrades at once. Under an energy savings performance contract, Atmos Energy developed the project, arranged financing to cover many of the capital costs and implemented the improvements. The Navy paid $1.8 million initially to reduce the amount of time it will take to see a payback from the retrofits. The rest of the costs will be paid through energy savings. The various types of upgrades show a return on investment at different times, but the entire project will pay for itself within about 12 years.


The difference between the original utility costs and the new, lower utility costs will be used to repay Atmos Energy's costs for installing the upgrades. This means there is no additional budget increase incurred by the installation beyond its initial investment, but there's an immediate positive environmental impact from reduced energy consumption. In addition, the Naval base will benefit from continued energy savings after the improvement costs are covered.

"When these companies can come in and give us the savings, and it doesn't cost us as much at the beginning, it's a win-win situation for everyone," Coe says. "The company gets some work, and we continue to meet our energy conservation goals."

At the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) collaborates with the military and other federal agencies to facilitate sound, cost-effective energy management and investment practices to enhance the country's energy security and environmental stewardship.