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2010 a Big Year for Energy and Water Conservation Initiatives at LAAFB

Work continues on the solar panels being installed on Los Angeles Air Force Base. When completed, the panels will decrease the amount of electricity the base purchases from the power company. A similar project on the roof of the base commissary converts sunshine into about 290 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day, enough to power 10 typical households.  (Photo by Lou Hernandez)

Photovoltaic (PV) panels above the east-side parking lots produce enough engery to light, heat and cool base buildings. A similar project on the roof of the base commissary converts sunshine into about 290 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day, enough to power 10 typical households. (Photo by Lou Hernandez)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- 2010 has been an eventful year in energy and water conservation for SMC. Lighting system upgrades, which primarily work off motion-occupancy sensors, were placed in the main office areas, corridors, restrooms and break-rooms of buildings 270, 271 and 272. Photovoltaic (PV) panels above the east-side parking lots were constructed. The energy produced by the PV system is used on base for lighting, heating and cooling the buildings--even running computers. Outdoor and indoor low-wattage walkway and spotlighting (circular recess lighting) was also completed.

To conserve water, irrigation controls have been set up at the main base and Fort MacArthur.

"[They're) tied into the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration satellites," said Janice Ellis, the base landscape architect.

These controls are served by the NOAA satellites and computer simulations that take into account natural rainfall and historic forecasting data into its water cycle. Ellis inputs the name of the exact species of plant she's using into the irrigation control system to determine when the plant will need to be watered. The satellites monitor atmospheric conditions, and in combination with surface weather stations, transmit the data to a weather service network providing irrigation oversight to the base.

"It takes the guess work out for the maintenance staff," said Ellis, "which means we'll have less plants dying on base, because the number one reason for plant death is overwatering."

The low-flushing toilet system, which uses recycled water, reduces water use by 50 percent of what a toilet would normally flush. Since 2007, the base has reduced 26 percent of its water usage. By using desert plants, the new irrigation system, and the low-flush toilets, the base expects to save 50 percent on water usage per year.

The base utilizes clean recycled water (from showers, toilets, dishwashers, etc.) from the city of El Segundo /West Basin Water District, which is delivered to the base and other customers for non-domestic use. Although it's not recommended for drinking, the recycled water contains nutrients for landscaping. Recycled water is drought resistant and the cost is far less than using potable water. Overall, there are huge savings to be realized when it comes to using recycled water for landscaping.

Ed Wilson, the base energy manager, says all the strides made in 2010 wouldn't have been possible without a change in culture.

"Base personnel are more accepting of using renewable resources," Wilson said. "At first, there was a lot of resistance."

But with time, training and a new level of understanding, people's acceptance has grown to the changes, and the base has flourished with energy and water-saving projects. As the year comes to a close, new projects to reduce energy and water consumption are in the works. There's a renewed understanding and desire to see more change, so 2011 is sure to be filled with many more innovative actions to come.