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Security Lighting Around Base Housing Offers Night-Time Protection

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE -- Residents of the Los Angeles Air Force Base's housing at Fort MacArthur, Pacific Crest and Pacific Heights located in San Pedro, Calif., can soon enjoy a safer and greener environment throughout the night due to the installation of solar-powered perimeter security lighting. The city of San Pedro, where many base personnel and military families live, is located approximately 20 miles south of the main base. 

The San Pedro Photo Voltaic Security Lighting Project began in January of this year and is currently scheduled for completion by the end of the year. Originally scheduled for September completion, the addition of more lighting, enhancement to the original design, and availability of supplies necessitated the construction extension. 

Perimeter lighting, which increases visibility along the fence-line of base housing areas, is part of the requirement to meet the Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection measures as a result of the 9/11 attack in 2001. A similar project is in the works to light up the perimeters of Los Angeles AFB for the next fiscal year. 

"We've had people get into our property through our fence line," said Edward Wilson, 61st Civil Engineering division and the lighting project's manager. "In the past, base security forces had to detain these people [who entered the base housing areas illegally]. The lighting will allow our security forces to see easily around our perimeter to enhance the security of the base and also act as a deterrent." 

In addition to enhancing base security, the perimeter lights save energy by relying on solar power. The lights use a "green" energy source, which is renewable-energy and emits no air pollution. The photo voltaic panels collect energy from the sun storing it in batteries throughout the day and then automatically turn the lights on at night. 

"The old technology would have required timers. With this new technology, when the panels stop receiving energy from the sun, the stored energy is released from the batteries ... and the lights come on," said Mr. Wilson. 

The panels collect and the batteries store enough energy for the lights to operate at least five days without the sun. The stand-alone, "off-grid" system requires no secondary source of power. The system will remain operational even during a blackout ensuring base security from intruders. 

Visibility concerns from off-base neighbors resulted in shortening the height of the poles that the panels are attached to. Another concern was the night-time illumination on neighboring homes when the lights turn on. 

"But now that our neighbors see what we're doing, it's OK," said Mr. Wilson. "They see we're not shining the lights off of the base [and into homes]. The intent is to shine the lights along the perimeter of the base, parallel to our fence line." 

The interference of the nocturnal habits of animal and insect life was yet another concern by the community. However, the perimeter lights present low-impact effect to the environment and are no more luminous than street lights. 

"There was a full environmental assessment done when the project started, which was open to public review and comments," said 2nd Lt. Alec Danaher, 61 CE, who provides the governmental oversight of the Energy Management Program. "That was part of the requirement by the National Environmental Policy Act ... to determine the effect on the surrounding areas." 

The Energy and Conservation Investment Program (ECIP), a special fund set aside by the Congress each year for energy and water conservation purposes, is funding this $1.5-million project. ECIP funds are allocated to projects which promise the most return from the investment and provide high positive benefit to Department of Defense (DoD). 

"DoD's share of the money from ECIP, which can range anywhere from five to potentially 50 million dollars a year," said Mr. Wilson. "ECIP gets divided by the different branches of the military based on the return-on investment - the merits of the project." 

"So essentially, it's not a 'set-aside' amount for each base, but we compete [to be awarded the money]," said Lieutenant Danaher. "We submit projects for the program, and they're selected based on how competitive they are and what the repayment is for the Air Force." 

The 61 CE was responsible for the management oversight and procurement of the design dollars necessary to put the project concept together, and competing for the funds. Then it was turned over to The Gas Company based in San Diego to contract a design firm to complete the design. 

"We did 35 percent of the design and turned it over to The Gas Company," said Mr. Wilson. "They have a program where they use small, disadvantaged companies to do design work." 

The construction for the project is managed by a company called Tol Test hired by the Air Force Civil Engineering Support Agency (AFCESA), which manages the ECIP activities for the Air Force. 

"Tol Test is a good company," said Mr. Wilson. "AFCESA has a selected group of contractors who work for the Air Force who provide quality service. Tol Test offered the best value for the Air Force on this project." 

The project is more than 75 percent complete at this time and the lights are already operational. 

"It met my expectations," said Mr. Wilson. "It does a very nice job of lighting."