• Children from Grafenwoehr Elementary School tour the Grafenwoehr Central Heating Plant on Oct. 31 to learn how natural gas provides heat and hot water to the garrison.

    Learning about energy

    Children from Grafenwoehr Elementary School tour the Grafenwoehr Central Heating Plant on Oct. 31 to learn how natural gas provides heat and hot water to the garrison.

  • Workers put in energy saving bulbs in lightposts at USAG Grafenwoehr.

    Better lights

    Workers put in energy saving bulbs in lightposts at USAG Grafenwoehr.

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Dwindling resources - both fossil fuels and funds - has caused the Army to rethink its energy strategy in recent years. Installations' output is scrutinized, alternative energy is culled and Net Zero goals are prioritized.

The Bavaria Military Community has followed suit, aiming to innovate energy streams and decrease energy consumption. The steps taken by the BMC have the long-term objectives of improved returns on energy investments and greater self-reliance.

This means that each garrison or community is gaining the ability to produce more of its own energy, regulate waste and ultimately save money.

"If we can reduce our energy consumption and energy needs, we can use that money somewhere else," said Terry Boone, enterprise energy engineer at the Directorate of Public Works.

According to Boone, the funds saved on energy would go toward the Army's mission, improving facilities and quality of life.

While the BMC works toward this goal, it has also reached out to the Army community to help cut down on energy usage and preserve resources.

"There are elements in this program that the garrison cannot control," said Aref Arianta, Grafenwoehr energy manager, explaining that personal habits, such as turning off lights or shutting down computers, play a large role in the garrison achieving its mission.

Much of the energy initiative derives from the BMC's Net Zero program. In 2010, Grafenwoehr was named a Net Zero installation for waste and has nearly met its target for 2015. While decimating its waste, Grafenwoehr also adopted Net Zero energy practices. Those practices, such as photovoltaic and solar thermal panels, have trickled down to the rest of the BMC and expanded.

About $1.4 million was just awarded to the BMC for Net Zero energy projects. Work has already started in Garmisch and will move to Rose Barracks and Hohenfels shortly. DPW hopes to initiate projects to make operations more efficient, such as creating footpaths within the community to cut down on the need to drive.

The BMC expects yields on the funds infused into the energy program.

"It's investing in something that initially costs money, but has a return in the future," said Arianta.

To maximize this return, over 200 smart meters are being installed in Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels and Garmisch.

The smart meters read and record the energy output of a building, providing real time data on usage. This allows DPW to notice trends, where energy usage peaks and dips. From this information, they can pinpoint the reason behind fluctuations or find areas of waste.

"If we know where we're wasting energy, we can identify it and take corrective action," said Boone.

According to Boone, the meters are "critical," taking much of the guesswork out of the program. They allow DPW to know exactly what the problems are and how to fix them to improve efficiency. The measurements will help identify which buildings need retrofitting, where to replace heating pumps and repair leaky windows.

In addition, installing LED lights and motion sensors in barracks and office buildings would increase energy savings. The motion sensors turn lights on when someone enters a room and off after they leave. The motion sensors would eliminate the need to turn lights off and on, saving energy otherwise wasted if lights were left on.

"We're trying to make it as easy as we can for the civilians and Soldiers," said Boone. "We're trying to make it automatic. By doing so, we can save energy and save effort on their part as well."

While the BMC strives to create more efficient infrastructure throughout Bavaria, Soldiers, families and civilians must do their part or the energy program will falter.

Arianta calls it "stewardship," or taking responsibility for the greater good.

While it's important that everyone, those living on post and off, treat energy as an exhaustible resource, residents living in government housing can help the program succeed the most.

DPW tries to make it as easy as possible to assist the community. Arianta and Boone urge those in government housing to take advantage of Self Help: Residents can bring old or busted light bulbs to Self Help and receive energy efficient compact florescent light bulbs for free.

They also recommend that those in government housing set their gas boilers to energy-saving "automatic" and that everyone turn down the heat when not home or at night.

When airing out stuffy rooms in the winter, windows should be kept open for three to five minutes only. A window left open in the winter for more than 15 minutes allows too much heat to escape and incoming moisture can create mildew buildup.

Other suggestions for saving energy include turning off lights, using natural light as much as possible and unplugging appliances like coffee pots, speakers and hairdryers when not in use.

Larger appliances, such as TVs, computers, or DVD players, can be plugged into a power strip that can be turned off when idle.

These small changes require little effort and help usher in a brighter future for the Army.

The combination of individual efforts and large, government-funded projects pushes the BMC toward its endgame of greater energy independence and monetary savings.

"It's the little things that add up collectively, but we also need big projects," said Boone. "It's a compilation of everything we have to do to get to where we have to be in the future."

Page last updated Wed December 12th, 2012 at 10:00