Energy Team
Energy usage data is displayed on a flat screen monitor in building 1110 on the second floor.

FORT KNOX, ky. -- The BP oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico has saddened, disappointed and even enraged many of us. The huge waste of a precious resource is so frustrating.

And yet, Fort Knox citizens are just as guilty.

If you need proof, just look at our electric bill.

According to R.J. Dyrdek, Knox's energy program manager, the June power bill for Fort Knox reveals the highest consumption level since 1994. The looming scenario for July will be worse.

In addition to hitting the installation's pocket hard, higher power bills also mean a darker footprint because more electricity means more pollution.

"Even though we have geothermal wells, solar panels, high efficiency lighting, and other energy measures, we still rely on LG&E to supplement our electricity needs," Dyrdek said.

The more electricity we use, the more we pollute because LG&E is a coal-burning plant which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere-a major contributor to global warming-along with many other emissions, he explained.

Several factors have combined to create the perfect storm of energy nightmares.

"We added 20 percent more footage when the (LTG Timothy Maude complex) came online," Dyrdek said. "That building is nearly a million square feet-no small increase."

As if that weren't enough, the scorching temperatures and soaring humidity normally seen in August throughout the Ohio River Valley have shown up early.

Then LG&E increased its demand surcharge by 10 percent, effective Aug. 1. While 10 percent doesn't sound like much, it adds up to a whopping $100,000 on the post's power bill each month.

The final factor contributing to the astronomical usage-and the only factor we can control-is the wasteful habit of government employees.

Dyrdek said he still sees open windows in buildings where he knows the air conditioning is running. Open windows allow heat as well as moisture to enter a room-both of which force the air conditioning to run longer to cool the room.

If your office is so cool you need to open windows to warm up, then turn your thermostat to a higher setting, Dyrdek advised. Even one degree of cooling can make a big difference, he added.

If consumption continues at its current pace, Dyrdek said the post's electric bill will top $1 million for July. More than $665,000 of that price tag -or roughly half- is the demand surcharge, which is imposed on the usage required at peak hours, when the sun's rays are hottest and air conditioning is at a premium.

For that reason, Dyrdek said the leadership is asking all Knox employees-civilian and military - to turn off their office lights during the peak usage time -between 1 and 5 p.m.- as long as you have windows or alternate light sources.

It shouldn't be too inconvenient, he explained. Most offices have windows that allow natural light which should be more than sufficient. In many cases, it's actually easier to work on a computer without the overhead lights, which can create a glare on the computer screen and add to eyestrain.

"It's really cool to turn off the lights," added Gary Meredith, an energy conservation consultant.

He's referring to the literal meaning of cool as well as the slang meaning. Lights add heat to a room, he explained, which forces the air conditioning system to work harder, on top of the electricity required to power the lights.

Too often, employees leave their offices but the lights are left on. Even if you expect to be gone just a few minutes, you can easily turn the lights back on when needed.

"If you don't need it, turn it off," Dyrdek said. "Even better, ask others why their lights are on."

In other parts of the world -like Germany or Japan- where conservation is a way of life, people monitor their own behavior as well as their neighbor's. For instance, employees often turn out lights in a co-worker's vacant office, explained Meredith.

In addition to air conditioning and lights, many other energy hogs can be found in Knox offices, such as coffee pots and printers, Dyrdek said. Once coffee has been brewed, he said, just turn off the coffee pot; subsequent cups can be heated in a microwave.

Dyrdek explained that he still sees space heaters and refrigerators in individual offices, even though they aren't authorized.

Refrigerators rank along with lights as double dippers: they require energy to cool food, but the cooling process emits heat -particularly in older models- requiring more energy to keep the room and the food cool.

Large office buildings on the installation have been fitted with three meters, so the overall consumption of kilowatt hours can be monitored as well as when it's being used, Dyrdek said. Eventually, those who are guilty of using more than their share may be penalized and those who conserve rewarded.

"We don't have any choice about our power bill; we must pay it," Dyrdek explained. "But some other programs may suffer if we have to rob Peter to pay Paul. I'd really like to get everybody pulling the rope in the same direction.

"It all starts with one step. Turn off the lights."

Page last updated Thu July 15th, 2010 at 16:32