By Marty Finley, News-EnterprizeOctober 1, 2012
Practices from the award-winning energy conservation program at Fort Knox have been duplicated in Afghanistan and are expected to save millions of dollars in energy costs.
Pat Appelman, director of public works at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, said roughly $31 million has been allocated for energy projects and upgrades that are expected to save $20 million in the first year and $50 million annually in coming years.
Appelman, who also serves as deputy director of public works on post, said he took the best practices applied at Fort Knox and helped translate them to the base, where they are utilizing solar-powered lighting in facilities and most streetlights, and solar-powered water heaters for showers and latrines. Appelman said the base also is replacing heating, ventilation and cooling systems and taking advantage of new installation and weather stripping among other improvements.
Appelman said his department does not try to dictate when people turn off lights or use energy but instead ensures systems in place are efficient to reduce overall energy output. He has been on the job overseas for the past 11 months, working 14 to 16 hour days seven days a week to meet demands under a reduced workforce. Previously, the work assigned to Appelman's department was handled by 130 Soldiers but is now being met by 80 civilians, he said.
"It's a grueling pace," he said. But he finds satisfaction in knowing the needs of the Soldiers are being met.
The public works department oversees all building and utility-related work at Bagram Airfield and has worked to place its own water and sewer treatment plants to cut down on the number
of trucks on the road, which in the past had to transport waste to a treatment facility.
Appelman said fewer number of trucks on the road saves money but, more importantly, puts fewer people in danger.
Pat Walsh, director of public works at Fort Knox, said he is proud of the example Appelman is setting in Afghanistan and has heard from officials that it is making a direct impact for Soldiers' livelihoods.
"The Army equates energy cuts in Afghanistan to saving Soldiers' lives," he said.
Walsh said diesel fuel powers electricity in Afghanistan, so when steps are taken to conserve energy it cuts down on the number of convoys needed to make fuel deliveries.
Appelman said the feedback from the U.S. Army has been tremendous and he has spoken to Pentagon officials about an expansion of the program elsewhere. For example, Appelman said there is a plan to install garrisons, who will be thoroughly trained to replicate the successes of Bagram's energy program, at each forward operating base in the country.
Fort Knox's energy program has won multiple awards and has been recognized by the Secretary of the Army and senior military officials as a pioneer, setting a standard for the rest of the military to follow.
While heavily geared toward solar power and facility upgrades, Fort Knox has developed an energy monitoring system that pinpoints problem areas and provide report cards on each building on post. The system provides a baseline and target goals for each facility and determines if buildings are meeting their goals,
Furthermore, it helps the post determine the cause of the problem and offer remedies. In many cases, it may be customer usage but other buildings may be flagged because of a flaw with the building, Walsh said.
The Army eventually wants Fort Knox to emerge as a net zero post, meaning it will produce as much or more energy than it consumes for a net energy cost of zero. While no timeline for this transformation is in place, the post has developed a net zero home on post, known as the Henry House.
The home, which was built in the 1930s, utilizes the most modern energy efficient technology while retaining the natural character and aesthetics of the home, according to Fort Knox officials.
Walsh said Fort Knox receives calls daily about the program and has received several guests from other posts inquiring about energy usage.
(Kentucky )Gov. Steve Beshear also has sent a cabinet member for energy conservation to Fort Knox to review its policy, he said.
"The word has gone to all levels of government," Appelman said.
Walsh said he believes the program has been effective because it saves money and shows the government can be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
The savings being rendered also assist in keeping rates affordable, he added.
Cutline: President Barack Obama visited Afghanistan in May, while Knox's Pat Appelman (in ACUs on the right), director of public works at Bagram Airfield, looked on.
"We've kind of insulated ourselves for our good practices from some of these rate increases," he said.