Fort Jackson is being honored with a Secretary of the Army Energy Management award this year.

Matt Gibbs, energy manager, and Curtis Helton, energy plant supervisor, were recently announced as Fort Jackson's winning teammates. The Secretary of the Army has rewarded them for supporting the Army's preparedness.

Fort Jackson's project was guided by an Energy Savings Performance Contract.

The plan included initiatives to introduce high efficiency lighting, LED installation, and occupancy sensors/controls in nearly 200 buildings.

The energy savings associated with these changes equates to $775,000 annually.

All Army installations were eligible to send out applications -- even those stationed overseas.

To win, the post embarked on a $35.2 million project. It was uniquely funded; the money used to pay for it comes from utility savings.

Though the price tag may seem high, the results of the project spared Fort Jackson $3 million in dollar savings the first year alone.

Gibbs said the estimated time for total payback is about seven years.

One of the "biggest ticket items" was a chilled water storage tank in Central Energy Plant Number Four. It allows cool water, chilled at night, to be stored for use during daytime hours.

From 1-9 p.m., instantaneous electrical usage is more expensive; that's why this initiative helps save so much money, Gibbs explained.

The usage is "a significant part of the energy bill," he said.

In total, the plan created a 17.8 percent reduction in energy intensity in 2017. This far surpassed the five percent goal set by Executive Order 13693.

Executive Order 13693 was signed into effect by President Barack Obama in 2015. Its stated intent was "to maintain Federal leadership in sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reductions."

Long before Obama's administration, the Army set to recognize installations, small groups and individuals making strides in sustainability.

Energy and water conservation are just two of the many award categories. Also commended are advances in innovation and new technology; energy and water program effectiveness; individual exceptional performance; and on-site energy generation.

Although Fort Jackson didn't enter to win the award for water management, there was still a quasi-cash prize for their efforts.

The ESPC exchanged antiquated plumbing fixtures for new, "low flow" ones. This swap created a yearly savings of $222,000.

Helton and Gibbs agreed that sustainability efforts are important for a number of reasons.

"It's a stewardship thing," Gibbs said.

It has become the norm to conserve on post, Helton went on. "It's a culture that's created."

Beyond that, it comes down to numbers. More money spent on utilities means less going toward other aspects of Army missions. Utilities are a "must pay bill," as Gibbs put it.

Gibbs ran the day-to-day operations of the project's ESPC.

He was in charge of "all the headache" of monitoring and taking part in the implementation, Helton explained. He acted as the contracting officer representative.

Although Helton worked separately from Gibbs, their projects went hand-in-hand. Helton strived to improve the efficiency of energy plants.

Helton and Gibbs weren't the only ones making efforts.

For the award application, the groups of competitors could only include as many as five members. Although Gibbs and Helton were awarded, "it takes everyone" to create this caliber of change, Gibbs said. Employees working in the environmental and engineering departments and those involved with the master plan must all be credited.

Helton said his crew was also pivotal to the success. Members came to him with ideas on how to improve the efficiency of on-post energy plants.

"I help them get it implemented … I'm obviously nothing without them," Helton said.

The initiatives don't end with employees in the energy field either.

"Everybody can do their part and save energy," Gibbs said. Shutting off the lights and closing the doors makes a big impact.