GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Army News Service, April 16, 2009) -- Green isn't the first thing people think of when they think of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. In recent years, however, the base has taken great steps to save energy and lower pollution in this small community, through projects big and small designed to make the base more energy efficient.

Four wind turbines stand more than 50 meters high on what is already the base's highest point - John Paul Jones Hill. Built in 2004, all of the materials had to be brought by barge or ship to the island and mounted with the help of two cranes perched precariously on the narrow ridge.

"The wind turbines are self-sufficient and automated," explained Bill Keenan, a project manager for Noresco, the company that maintains the turbines. The turbines monitor wind speeds and rotate as the wind direction changes. Energy output and any problems with the turbines can be monitored remotely through computers at the base power station and by Keenan in case repairs need to be made.

The wind and diesel hybrid system reduces fuel consumption on base by 650,000 gallons each year. The energy produced provides approximately 10 percent of the energy for the station. The system also keeps the air cleaner by preventing the production of 13 million pounds of air pollutants each year, according to Noresco officials.

Guantanamo's turbines are small in comparison to those currently found in the U.S., but will provide significant fuel and oil savings over a number of years.

According to the base utilities energy manager, Fred Burns, there are smaller projects happening throughout the naval station to reduce the amount of energy used.

"Air conditioning is the biggest electric load on base," Burns said. Each time an air conditioning unit is replaced, a new unit with magnetic bearings is put in its place. The new units' design provides an 80-90 percent reduction in electrical bills, he said.

The Joint Task Force installed solar lights at the Expeditionary Legal Complex and many lights around the base are solar-powered. In other locations around the base, energy saving light bulbs are used to reduce energy use.

Water consumption is also a concern at Guantanamo Bay. Most U.S. military facilities bring in power and water from outside but, because of its location, Guantanamo must generate its own power and water. Water at Guantanamo Bay comes from the ocean and is desalinated at a plant on base. This process uses a lot of energy and, therefore, a lot of fuel.

There are ways individuals can cut down on water consumption to take the strain off of the system, especially in the dry months of January through May. Residents on base are encouraged to not water their lawns for more than one hour each day and to set their mowers at their highest level. Troopers can also re-use water from boiling or cooking to water plants and be sure to turn hoses and faucets all the way off.

The base car wash helps to reduce water consumption by recycling almost 90 percent of the water used through a filtration system. Washing vehicles at the car wash instead of with personal hoses can help to save water.

As Earth Day approaches this month, Troopers should remember that every little bit helps when it comes to energy conservation.

"It all starts with each individual doing his or her small part," Burns said.

Other energy-saving tips include turning up the thermostat in your room or making sure the lights are out when you leave.

"One light doesn't make much of a difference," explained Burns. "But if everyone shuts off their lights, it would have a big impact."

(Staff Sgt. Blair Heusdens writes for JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs)