ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Anniston Army Depot and one of its tenants have recently upgraded equipment, including water heaters, lights and a large mobile shredder, to be more energy-efficient.

Heating water with the sun

Three buildings in the depot's west area recently received new solar water heating systems.

The West Station Diner, Physical Fitness Center and Abrams Headquarters Building now harness the sun's energy to heat water.

"We have a mandate we are trying to meet," said Brian Freeman, a mechanical engineer in the depot's Directorate of Public Works. "The depot needs to have 30 percent of its hot water solar heated."

The solar water heating system uses energy absorbed by solar panels to heat water in a collection tank. Water from a 119-gallon storage tank then cycles through the hot water in the collection tank, absorbing the heat.

The only electricity needed for the system is the small amount used to power pumps circulating the water.

"This type of system can be put into any size building and can heat 80 percent of all the hot water needed," said Sean Gardner, a partner owner for Compass Solar, the contractor hired to install the solar system.

A backup system is in place in each building. Before the solar-heated water flows into the building's system, it goes to a standard electric water heater. As long as the water coming in is above a set temperature, the electric water heater will never turn on. However, if the water becomes too cold, the electric water heater will take over.

A better shredder

About 18 months ago, DLA Disposition Services, a tenant of Anniston Army Depot, was faced with a problem. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management had just surveyed their operation and wanted to limit the amount of time their diesel shredder could operate because of its fluorocarbon output.

"ADEM limited us to a certain number hours we could operate the diesel shredder each year, which came to about eight hours each month. Since it takes two hours to start up the shredder, that left us with only six hours of operations on the shredder each month," said Michael Riley, chief of demilitarization operations for DLA Disposition Services.

Fortunately, at the time, Granutech-Saturn Systems in Texas was in the process of rebuilding a shredder for DDS. So, Riley asked if it was possible to rebuild it with an electric engine.

Both Granutech-Saturn and the Army said yes, enabling DLA Disposition Services to have a quieter machine that is better for the environment.

"The noise is reduced considerably and there are no fluorocarbons released into the atmosphere with the electric shredder," said Riley, adding that hearing protection was required when operating the diesel shredder.

The electric shredder is identical to its diesel counterpart in capabilities and capacity, the only difference between the two is the motor.

DLA will recycle their machinery as well. When the old diesel machine leaves the property, it will go to Granutech-Saturn as well -- to be rebuilt for another DLA disposition organization.

The shredder's energy usage is tracked every day it is in operation. An energy reading is taken when the machine starts up and another at the end of operations. In its two months of operation to-date, the shredder has used 5,467.612 kilowatt-hours and has been operational for 19 days. This means the shredder uses an average of 35.97 kwh per hour of operation -- about the same amount of energy as 360 100-watt bulbs.

It requires more power to demilitarize some material than others. Camouflage netting, for example, often takes longer to fully tear apart than a parachute or Kevlar vest.

"The shredder can destroy anything from a helmet to a 50 caliber machine gun barrel," said Riley, adding that DDS rarely destroys metal objects in the shredder because they wear down the teeth. Instead, the shredder is used primarily for cloth items.

Some material, after shredding, can be recycled, such as Kevlar fibers for use in tires.

Anniston's demilitarization operation is the first to have an electric mobile shredder. The two other DLA demilitarization locations in the U.S. are slated to receive electric shredders as their equipment is updated.

Brighter lights

You may have noticed the street lights throughout the installation seem a little brighter. Though they may have a higher amount of candle power, the lights now use about a third of the power they did prior to a recent upgrade.

The street lights use a cluster of light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs in place of a single, large, incandescent bulb.

"The new lights shine a lot brighter than the old ones," said Robert Cooner, a DPW engineer. "In the early mornings it is easier to see people as they cross the streets."

The life span of the LED bulbs is also longer than the incandescent bulbs they replace -- lasting three times longer.