FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- The Army's Net Zero Installation Strategy to conserve natural resources echoes Fort Meade's efforts to conserve energy.
According to the Army's website, Net Zero is a holistic approach to addressing energy, water and waste. The goal is for installations to be Net Zero -- using and producing resources in such a way that they will balance out, without overconsumption or waste.

"What we do now is a direct effort to comply with Net Zero requirements," said Assaf Dvir, professional engineer and energy manager at the Directorate of Public Works.

He noted that the installation is following the Army and Department of Defense directives to reduce its energy use by 3 percent per year.

To meet these goals DPW is working on several energy projects, and is investigating new ways to not only conserve but also to improve the quality of life on Fort Meade.

For example, the installation is using solar panels to generate electricity to power six Light Emitting Diodes, or LED lights, at the vehicle inspection station located at the Mapes Road and Route 32 gate. Prior to the completion of this project a year ago, a diesel generator was used to power the inspection station's lights.

A solar panel collects radiation from the sun and actively converts that energy into electricity. LED lights emit more foot candles per watt than incandescent light bulbs, and have a relatively longer-use life, according to manufacturers.

LED lights do not contain mercury, unlike fluorescent lights, said Altramesia Grady, general engineer at DPW who is responsible for supporting energy efforts and the execution of sustainment, restoration and modernization projects.

Grady said that LED lights provide instant lighting while fluorescent lights do not.

The solar panel and LED lights are a wise investment, said Grady. Together, they save about $1,170 per year. The life cycle of the solar panel is 18 years.

"The investment return is in our favor," said Grady, adding that DPW is researching how it can use solar panels and LED lights at other facilities as well.

Last year, DPW sent a proposal to the Department of the Army for funding to purchase 26,200 LED tubes in designated buildings on post. Dvir said the Headquarters Department of the Army Installation Management Command has approved the proposal, which is currently being reviewed by DoD.

Fort Meade also works to conserve energy by installing high-efficiency boilers to heat buildings and supply domestic hot water to buildings that are being renovated. For example, DPW is installing high-efficiency hot water boilers at Gaffney Fitness Center as part of the gym's new central heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. DPW is also in the process of buying new high-efficient boilers for the Max J. Bielke Human Resource Center at 2234 Huber Road.

"When high-efficiency equipment is used, less energy is being consumed," Dvir said.

In future energy conservation projects, DPW may capture methane gas released from decaying materials in the Fort Meade landfill near the shooting range. Dvir said the gas can be used to fire up generators that will generate electricity.

The installation's success in energy conservation "is not going to happen overnight," Dvir said. "We are implementing conservation efforts as we develop our projects."

Energy conservation is becoming a bigger part of installations' efforts throughout the Army, he said.