FORT BRAGG, N.C. - This past week the average high daily temperatures were in the 90s and it’s not even technically summertime yet.

In North Carolina, the summer heat generally runs through most of August, and many years even into September.

While the temperature is high outside, we still expect to enjoy cooler temperatures indoors. Most thermostats are set about 74 degrees fahrenheit in homes and offices, which is more than 20 degrees lower than the outside temperature. Most air-conditioners are designed to provide only a 20-degree difference for the indoor air and they are working overtime in our extreme heat just to meet that design parameter.

When those units are running nonstop so is our energy bill. If you work on Fort Bragg, then you probably know that the thermostat settings are regulated by the Army " 72 to 76 degrees fahrenheit in the cooling months and 70 to 74 degrees fahrenheit during the heating months.
The Army has set these temperatures to guarantee that all building occupants are comfortable, to ensure that our systems are not continually strained and to reduce our energy consumption and energy bills as much as practical.

Have you ever wondered if there were other ways to cool your home or office, other than the conventional AC system most of us use?

In fact, there are various technologies working in many regions of the country. Here in North Carolina, one such very applicable method is a type of geothermal technology called a ground source heat pump. This technology was first developed in 1948 and there have been more than 750 systems installed in North Carolina since 2000.

Geothermal technology systems use the ground as a source of energy for heating (taking the heat of the ground and delivering it to the facility) and a sink of energy for cooling (taking the heat of the facility and delivering it to the ground). The earth is a perfect heating and cooling device, providing a fairly steady 65 degree F temperature at 15 feet depth in most areas of the United States.

For a vertical system, wells (approximately four inches in diameter) are drilled about 20 feet apart and 100 to 250 feet deep. These wells are then fitted with a closed loop pipe, connecting to horizontal piping that returns to the heat pump in the adjacent building through underground trenches.

“This is one of the many alternative energy producing technologies we are pursuing on Fort Bragg,” says Coby Jones, energy coordinator for DPW.

Planning is currently underway for a project that will utilize this clean, abundant energy source to provide heating and cooling at a central location.

If you are familiar with Iron Mike and his stoic gaze down Normandy Street toward the new FORSCOM/USARC building, then you probably know there is a large, open, natural area called the “Polo Field” between that statue and the new FORSCOM/USARC building. The open field is large enough to install a massive ground source heat pump system that will service multiple buildings in the immediate Old Post area.

Because this system will be entirely underground, it will not impact the use of the Polo Field, or the aesthetics of the historic district, nor will it take away any valuable land area; yet it will provide years of low cost heating and cooling for the nearby buildings.

The Polo Field has been chosen as a prime location for GSHPs at Fort Bragg in order to preserve the open space yet make it productive for the installation. Since the early 1900s the Polo Field has served as a recreation asset, providing an open space to Soldiers and their Families.

Maintaining our historical roots while supporting the mission is key to preserving the installation for years to come. The Polo Field will not only serve as a recreation site for the Fort Bragg populace, but will now become an asset in achieving energy security.

The project, which is scheduled to start later this month, is designed to give us a premium ground source heat pump system while also reducing our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels and lowering our annual energy consumption and utility bill.

It is important for us to implement innovative technologies like this as one method of reducing our energy footprint.