By Maureen RoseMarch 12, 2009
It\'s not often that a building wins a prize. Monday, Len Peters, the secretary of Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet, presented an award to Fort Knox Garrison Commander Col. Rick Schwartz for Emory Hall's recognition as an Energy Star. The Kentucky program - Energy Star - rewards those buildings that use significantly less energy than others-typically about 35 percent less. To earn the award, a building must score 75 out of 100 points in the Environmental Protection Agency's national energy-performance rating system. Currently,45 buildings throughout Kentucky have received Energy Star awards, although only 12 of those are office buildings. "We probably have 30-40 more buildings that meet the standards," said Gary Meredith, the installation's energy program manager. "We just haven't done the documentation." Following the award presentation, Knox officials gathered to brief Peters on the post's ongoing energy conservation programs. Federal facilities have been directed to reduce energy consumption by three percent annually according to the Energy Policy Act passed in 1992. Fort Knox began its conservation program in the 1970s. A great deal of Knox's success - while a team effort - must be attributed to one person. "Gary Meredith is the rock star of government energy savings," said Pat Appelman, the chief of the engineering and services division within Knox's Directorate of Public Works on Knox. "He is the model for the federal government." For his part, Meredith was quick to point out that the cooperation of many entities on post contributed to its conservation success. "The management at Fort Knox has been unbelievable," Meredith said. "We have been at the rubber-meets-the-road phase for years. We just waded into the weeds and got it done." While no one measure resulted in the huge energy savings Knox enjoys, one of its primary assets is the geothermal system. "Almost 50 percent of the government space is heated and cooled by heat pumps," Meredith explained. Since the HVAC cost of most office buildings requires the largest chunk of energy, reducing that cost has been significant. "We might be the largest single geothermal user in the country," Appelman said. "We don't save energy by making people uncomfortable," Meredith explained. "We don't ask anybody to work in the dark or turn down the heat. We improve the climate while saving energy." In addition to its geothermal systems, Fort Knox has instituted cost savings with changes in insulation, lighting, windows, roofs, and domestic hot water. Several other energy savers have recently been added to Knox's arsenal of waste busters. Methane gas is being drilled on the installation to provide additional energy to cover the spike in costs of air conditioning during summer months. Gas production began in January and the project was accomplished at no cost to the government. Five solar arrays have been installed on the post. The first one is located off 31W, right at the property line north of the installation. The tank and picnic area are illuminated by a photovoltaic system which cost $13,000 to implement, compared to the $70,000 that traditional electrical lighting would have cost. Another array of solar panels - or PV systems - is being installed at Richardson Hall. That array has the capability to produce 100 kilowatts per hour. Not content to rely on past improvements, Knox is looking at several new programs for possible addition to its host of energy savers. An experimental wind turbine rotates next to the Nolin office building on post. To see what it generates, look at the data online at www.nolinrecc.com/windpower.asp. Further, Knox officials have asked for a proposal on a waste energy plant that would generate 10 million gallons of biodiesel per year, essentially from things people generally discard -- old vegetable oil, yard clippings, and sewage. The bottom line is that the reduced energy usage saves money while reducing pollutants and the Army's carbon footprint. In addition, reliance on outside providers is reduced, the life of systems is extended, users are more comfortable, and non-renewable sources are seldom used. Officials estimate the post is saving more than $10 million annually. Peters said Knox's program is "very impressive."