- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

PERU, Ind. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Defense has an annual energy budget of approximately $20 billion, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the federal government’s total energy consumption, according to a recent study by The Pew Charitable Trust.

U.S. military bases alone rack up a $4 billion energy bill annually.

It’s an astronomical chunk of change, but it’s a number that has shrunk a little thanks to energy-saving initiatives launched at Grissom Air Reserve Base.

“The DOD is definitely looking at becoming more green,” Tech. Sgt. Mark Orders-Woempner with the 434th ARW Public Affairs office told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1fjI76w ). “Every base has its own unique mission sets, and every facility has its own characteristics. But across the board, the DOD is looking for innovative ways to save money and protect the environment.”

One of the most innovative and groundbreaking projects at Grissom was the recent installation of a $100,000 geothermal heating and cooling system. It’s the first unit of its kind ever installed on an Air Force Reserve Command base.

Geothermal energy uses the earth’s natural heat to help heat and cool buildings.

Engineers drilled 28 wells 300 feet into the earth to install a closed-loop, geo-exchange system that’s now heating a nearly 15,000-square-foot facility at a fraction of the cost.

Geothermal systems wouldn’t work on every base, but a study conducted by engineers revealed it would work at Grissom.

It was Sam Pier, 434th Civil Engineer Squadron mechanical engineer, who first looked into a geothermal unit. Grissom was renovating the facility, and Pier had some experience with geothermal exchanges. He said he wanted to incorporate the technology into the renovation design.

“When we knew the building was going to be renovated, Wayne Raby, 434th CES project manager, and I sat down and thought about what type of systems we wanted to utilize in the 14,900-square-foot facility,” Pier said. “I had experience with residential-type geothermal units and wanted to see if there was a way to incorporate that technology here.”

Now, Orders-Woempner said the system will pay for itself in around 10 years and start cutting back the base’s energy bill immediately.

Other energy-saving upgrades include the installation of low-flow plumbing, better HVAC controls, energy efficient lighting, and infrared heating systems. Grissom spent more than $900,000 last year on those projects.

The base also dramatically reduced its fuel consumption last year after it purchased a $3 million virtual training system.

The new boom operator weapons system trainer, or BOWST, opened in September and allows KC-135 Stratotanker boom operators to undergo vital training necessary for in-flight refueling missions in a virtual environment.

A boom operator is part of a KC-135’s three-person aircrew and uses a large boom to establish a connection between the tanker and the receiver aircraft to transfer fuel.

Story Continues →