Elmendorf saves through alternative energy

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
In today's technological age, no matter what medium is used, most modern conveniences require energy to operate.

The U.S. as a whole largely relies on natural gas, coal and oil for energy. Alaska has fairly unique requirements due to the arctic environment.

The federal government has set goals to lower costs and save energy. Everyone has a role to help, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is taking steps to do its part.

The Anchorage municipal solid waste landfill, adjacent to the base, collects and burns landfill gas to comply with regulations of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

The gas is primarily methane, and the Elmendorf Landfill’s Gas Waste-to-Energy Plant generates more than 56,000 megawatt-hours, or 26.2 percent of Elmendorf’s electrical load.

The plant ensures Elmendorf will exceed renewable energy goals established by the Environmental Protection Agency executive order. These mandates require federal agencies use renewable energy to meet at least 7.5 percent of total electric consumption.

Because the generator plant is located on Elmendorf, the installation is able to double-count credit at 52.4 percent, or nearly seven times the goal.

"We're looking at (future) options," said Richard Hiatt, the 673d Civil Engineer Squadron energy manager. "We're looking into a means of getting wind power. There are also various ways to harness power from the tide. Solar power is an option, but it doesn't work well in Alaska; we've done studies to install solar panels -- I did the calculations and the benefits are just not there."

The federal requirement is to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent in 2015.

"Right now, we're saving between a third and half of the electrical costs, just on the Richardson side," said Morgan Benson, a 673rd CES energy performance specialist. "The final goal is to create as much energy as you are using, called net zero energy use."

The goals are the same all the way up the chain, he said. Achieving those goals benefits more than just Elmendorf. Pacific Air Forces, the Air Force, the Defense Department and the federal government as a whole benefit, Benson said.

"If one base does more than their fair share, it really benefits all the way around," he said. "That's why this methane gas was such a big deal -- it's more than just one year of savings; it was about 30 percent of the base as a whole."

Currently, there is the capacity to generate 50 percent of the power requirements on Richardson and 25 percent of the needs for the entire installation. In the years 2016 and 2017, an estimated 1.4 MW of power will be added, and in the near future, another unit will add an additional 1.4 MW of power to the installation. It's going to continue to grow based on the rate of gas at the plant, Hiatt said.