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Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011

Energy group keeps facilities running green

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October is Energy Awareness Month, but that’s not why several environmentally conscious Soldiers and civilians met Thursday. The meeting was a quarterly affair, where members of the Energy Resource Group gather to discuss green efforts on Fort Benning, energy use in post facilities and related issues.

The program is in its second year on post, said Charles Marshall, resource efficiency manager, who heads the group.

“The Energy Resource Group is composed of energy conservation officers and building energy monitors who are appointed or are on orders to be responsible for energy conservation in each facility at Fort Benning,” he said. “To support this initiative,

which has one of the few fully functional energy resource group programs in the Army — does training for all people participating in the program.”

They’ve trained more than 400 people since the program started in February 2010, but several have moved since then. Anyone can be a building monitor, whether Soldier, DA civilian or contractor, Marshall said. “The intent is to have somebody who’s responsible for the energy conservation awareness in each facility,” he said. “We have over 20 million square feet of facility space and we have over 1,400 facilities on the installation, so their participation definitely helps us with energy conservation.”

Building monitors may catch anything from a leaky sink to a window with broken caulking, both sources of energy loss, Marshall said. They also encourage others in the building to save energy with simple habits like turning off lights, and they look for ways to make their buildings more environmentally efficient. Volunteers receive a free book on energy conservation tips to help them save money at home and at work.

“With all this technology we’re putting in place to improve the facilities, there’s still that human element this program addresses,” Marshall said. “We look at different energy conservation tips, and we also take a look at the current levels of how Fort Benning as a whole is performing energy-wise, and then we also take a look at some of the energy-related policies for Fort Benning. I expect to see some savings as a result. Simple things such as turning out the lights when you leave a room have a tremendous effect on saving energy. If we save money in energy, then that’s money we can use other places.”

The Atlantic Region of Installation Management Command used Fort Benning’s group as a model with their respective programs, he said.

1st Lt. Lance Rae, 5th Squadron, 15th Cavalry Regiment, was assigned as the energy monitor for Building 4326 on Harmony Church. The basic training facility includes sensor-run lights and low-flow toilets. Since it’s new construction, there are relatively few issues, Rae said, but he did have to report trouble with the air ducts when the sensors malfunctioned.

“It’s obviously important,” he said. “It’s the responsible thing to do, the environmentally sound thing to do. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It takes a walk-through to look for some of the things that are wrong with the building. You get to talk with people, (help them) be good stewards of energy.”

Building monitors only need to check the building once a quarter, but looking more frequently is good, Rae said. During the quarterly meetings, monitors discuss concerns, turn in their quarterly checklist and stay up to speed on the latest environmental developments on post.

Marshall announced the ribbon cutting for the new Flex Powerstation FP250, set for Nov. 8, and described some of the science behind the new technology, which uses methane gas produced from biodegrading materials in a covered landfill on Harmony Church.

“What we’ve been able to do is take the gas we were burning off, and there’s actually a structure down there at the landfill now that captures the gas,” Marshall said.

“Then it’s mixed with something else, has a reaction and turns the turbine which creates electricity. It actually produces enough energy to power about 200 homes. We’re looking at doing some other things across the installation in order to take advantage of resources we have here already.”

Peter Lukken, strategic sustainability planner for Fort Benning, said it’s the first waste energy program of its kind in the Army.

The public is invited to the ceremony. Shuttles will depart from the National Infantry Museum at 12:30 p.m. for the site and return by 3 p.m. for a reception.

RSVPs are requested as soon as possible to RSVPNov8@flexenergy.com.

To find out more about becoming a building monitor or energy officer, email Marshall at charles.marshall13@us.army.mil. The next training will be Nov. 15.

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