Saving the planet, one pellet at a time
March 5, 2012
BAUMHOLDER, Germany - Baumholder energy initiatives are saving the planet, one wood pellet at a time. The U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder is moving forward with initiatives to save energy and help create an environmentally friendly community. The latest effort has been to install new furnaces that produce heat by burning wood pellets, which is 30 to 40 percent more economical than using heating oil.
Baumholder currently has about 50 buildings that are not connected to the steam heating system, mostly due to their remote locations. These buildings are currently heated with oil burning furnaces.
To help reduce heating requirements, six wood pellet burning furnaces will replace the aging heating oil furnaces. Three of the new furnaces are already functional and on line. Three more will soon be operational. When the project is complete, the six new furnaces will relieve seven buildings of their heating oil dependency.
Additional funding has been allocated to provide Baumholder with two more wood pellet furnaces that will heat an additional three buildings.
Converting to wood pellet burning furnaces is in line with Installation Management Command's Line of Effort 6.0 Energy and Water Efficiency and Security. Its critical measures deal with energy reduction, water usage reduction, using renewable energy and waste recycling. It's also the culmination of long planning coming from the Garrison's Zero Footprint planning concept that means energy independence with renewable, self-produced, local energy sources.
The new furnaces have a four-fold effect on the overall energy conservation scheme, according to Sean Lambur, Plans, Analysis and Integration Office director for USAG Baumholder. "The furnaces help create environmental and financial sustainability for Baumholder. We say that wood pellets are environmentally neutral because the same amount of carbon dioxide is released burning as otherwise rotting in forests. Depending on the particular furnace size and location, the renewable wood pellets that we'll need will cost us 30 to 40 percent less than heating oil. That could be more than $30,000 in just one year already and, with only 10 of 50 buildings done, you can see there's lots more to be saved. Local wood pellet supplies give the garrison energy independence compared to imported heating oil," said Lambur.
Weaning the garrison off its heating oil dependency is an unprecedented and ambitious endeavor, but it is not the only thing Baumholder is doing to step up its energy saving program. The implementation of wood pellet burning furnaces represents just the tip of the iceberg in Baumholder's overall energy plan.
Baumholder has also received $3.4 million to install radiant heating in 11 motor pools that replaces old hot air blowers. "This initiative will save Baumholder more than $600,000 annually in energy costs," said Lambur.
The use of renewable energy has become more and more prevalent in Europe. Solar panels cover Germany's red rooftops and energy windmills dot the landscape. Some communities have converted much of their open land to "solar farms" and "wind farms" which feed the electrical energy they produce directly into Germany's national energy net.
Baumholder has seen the wisdom and installed 530 solar panels on three prominent buildings. "We plan to install more panels and direct the electricity into the German net and thereby reduce our electrical costs with those rebates," said Lambur.
Looking outside the garrison's borders, Baumholder is moving to establish a partnership between Energy of Idar-Oberstein and the state of Rheinland Pfalz.
OIE is the private heating supplier for the region. "OIE is seeking to build an additional heating plant which burns wood chips that could supply more than 80 percent of the garrison's heating requirement with renewable energy," said Lambur.
In the recycling arena, Baumholder's new trash collection contract is earning money off of metal, glass and paper. That, together with Baumholder's new recycling program, is why all the recycling islands in the housing areas have bins for trash, paper, glass and cans. USAG Baumholder leads all garrisons in Europe in recycling earnings, with more than $100,000 in fiscal year 2011.
Baumholder is also taking the initiative to educate the community about recycling. The Go Green recycling program was introduced to the workforce and the community at personnel assemblies and town hall meetings. The garrison's goal is to reach a 42 percent recycling rate. In 2011, the garrison improved from 28.5 to 32 percent in just six months, mostly due to better glass separation in the new islands throughout the housing areas. The program is also being expanded in the home as the garrison hopes to purchase recycling bin sets for all family quarters this year. Many larger recycling bin sets, known by their bright blue (paper), yellow (cans) and red (glass) colors, have been distributed to public areas where Soldiers and civilians work.
Baumholder's energy efficiency and recycling plans are closely related. Recycled materials are also cheaper to dispose of, said Lambur. Going Green, whether in energy or in trash "our goal is to cut costs wherever possible and Go Green at the same time with self-sufficiency wherever possible," said Lambur.
Taking a look at the overall picture, "USAG Baumholder enjoys unique opportunities for energy and recycling management as we operate all heating, electrical and trash systems with our in-house workforce. This control gives us operational flexibility to pursue significant improvements in many areas," said Lambur.