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The bachelor enlisted quarters’ laundry facility makes use of solar panels to heat water aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., June 7. This project is considered one of the most successful individual building projects for energy conservation on the station and serves as a model for other conservation projects.

Photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger

Conserving today means a better tomorrow for Miramar

10 Jun 2013 | Cpl. Melissa Wenger 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Fifty years ago, no one gave a second thought to buckling up, but now it’s the first thing that many of us do when getting into a vehicle. The leadership of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. hopes that one day, individuals aboard the station will give the same thought to turning off lights, shutting down computers, and taking other steps to conserve energy.

“What we’re trying to do here is change the behavior of the Marines at Miramar and make it so that everyone is thinking of those things,” said Mick Wasco, the station energy program manager. “What I’m envisioning and working toward is all the tenant Marines and station Marines [being able to] feel like they’re on a green installation.”

 Just over one year ago, the air station was part of the energy overconsumption problem, but is now quickly working toward being part of the solution.

“Ninety-seven percent of the power on base was called brown power and it came from gas or coal-fired power plants out in town,” said Col. John P. Farnam, station commanding officer. “Typically, that’s how we get our energy here in the United States.”

The Secretary of the Navy set an energy goal in 2010 stating that by 2020, 50 percent of the energy used by military installations will be renewable. MCAS Miramar is gearing up to leave that benchmark in the dust with the generating power from Miramar’s landfill.

“The methane project brings me about 50 percent of my energy on the base now,” said Farnam. “Last year, [the landfill] gave us 25,000 megawatt-hours, which are the equivalent to about 101 railroad cars full of coal or just over two million gallons of gas that we would’ve used to run power plants to give us that electricity. So it makes a giant difference. We expect power for the next several decades at a minimum from that landfill.”

The Miramar landfill is the main contributor to a solution for powering the installation, which is slated for completion in 2017.

 “The microgrid project is what’s going to give us the ability … to power the part of the base that needs to be powered should we have a brown out or should we lose power due to fires or earthquakes or something like that,”  said Farnam.
Currently, the installation is a part of the San Diego power grid.

“If the grid goes down, we go down with it,” said Farnam. “Should there be problems outside with the overall power grid, I can disconnect Miramar from that, use the renewable power source that we have from the landfill and keep the lights on here at Miramar.”

Other projects contributing to Miramar’s green energy conservation initiative include the installation of a new technology at building 6311, the station’s Public Works Division.

View Incorporated manufactures electrochromic windows coated in a special film.

“What the coating allows us to do is through an electronic control system, control the glass from 60 percent visible light transmission … down to four percent visible light transmission,” said James Fox, project manager for View Inc. “Part of the control system knows the latitude and longitude of this building and the time of year so exactly where the sun is at in the sky and the windows will respond appropriately.”

In other words, the windows tint automatically, allowing tenants to keep the interior cool while having the comfort of being able to see outside.

 “The main goal is to reduce the cooling costs primarily by about 15 to 25 percent for any normal building” said Fox.  “Those are the energy savings we expect to see here at [building] 6311. After we get done, it should cut the cooling costs by about 20 percent of what it takes to cool this building.”

Concentrated solar panels have cropped up as well to supplement the station’s conservation efforts.

“The concentrated term refers to a mirrored system that reflects light from multiple angles onto a small piece of solar panel and generates far more electricity than just regular light hitting the panel,” said Wasco. “The panels are on full tilt and full rotation and have light sensors on them that follow the sun throughout the day in order to get the most power out of the system.”

Another system that maximizes the output of solar energy has been installed at the bachelor’s enlisted quarters’ laundry facility aboard MCAS Miramar.

“We use solar thermal panels to heat the water before it goes into the boiler and that makes it so that the boiler doesn’t have to use as much energy to heat the water,” said Wasco. “It was one of the most successful projects that we’ve done because it was just a very holistic solution for that building that saves a large percentage of energy for that building.”

Miramar is also privy to participating in different experimental technologies that have already been awarded a contract.

“One [technology is] a battery storage microgrid application, which means that we take our solar panels that are behind our building and we hook them up to a battery, and that battery will be charged from the solar electricity,” said Wasco.  “Then, that battery will be turned around and used as backup storage for that building. When the power goes out, that building will be able to sustain itself for at least 72 hours.”

According to Wasco, the energy program boils down to being a more efficient instillation, preventing waste, but still living in comfort and productivity.

“None of our goals include having any less capability,” he said. “The effort is really focused on keeping the same capability and mission readiness we’ve always had, but just eliminating waste. As we all know, conserving energy saves money and puts more equipment on the battlefield and whatever else we need to meet the mission.”