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DeCA Dedicates Renewable Solar Energy System at LAAFB

Four hundred solar panels on the roof of the commissary at Los Angeles Air Force Base collect energy to partially power the military grocery store’s energy requirements. The photovoltaic system was activated for testing and evaluation in mid-April and will be dedicated on May 28. (Photo by Rick Degraffenreid, ITSI)

Four hundred solar panels on the roof of the commissary at Los Angeles Air Force Base collect energy to partially power the military grocery store’s energy requirements. The photovoltaic system was activated for testing and evaluation in mid-April and will be dedicated on May 28. (Photo by Rick Degraffenreid, ITSI)

Los Angeles Air Force Base -- In a city known for its celebrities, the commissary at Los Angeles Air Force Base is using star power to reduce its impact on the environment. The commissary has enlisted the city's most powerful star― the sun to partially power the store's energy requirements. 

The Defense Commissary Agency will dedicate the store's new solar energy system in a ceremony May 28 at 9 a.m. the first one installed in a military commissary. The photovoltaic system - the first of its kind to be installed in a military commissary - was activated for testing and evaluation in mid-April and converts L.A.'s abundant sunshine into about 290 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day, enough to power 10 typical households. 

"We are committed to being an environmental leader in the food marketing industry," said Rick Page DeCA's acting director. "Harnessing renewable solar energy reduces our operating costs and is good for the environment. This is a winning combination for the taxpayer, the community and our customers." 

The $853,000 project was funded through the Department of Defense Energy Conservation Investment Program. 

The Los Angeles commissary was selected for the solar energy project because the area has an abundance of sunny days, the cost of electricity in the region is high, and the local electric company, Southern California Edison, offers a rebate program funded by the California Public Utilities Commission. The rebate is estimated to return more than $170,000 to Los Angeles Air Force Base and will be passed on to DeCA. 

"This project takes the important first step in using alternative energy," said Tawny Tran, project manager for Innovative Technical Solutions Inc. of Walnut Creek, Calif. ITSI was the general contractor for the project, and it sub-contracted the installation of the solar panels to Independent Energy Solutions of San Marcos, Calif. 

While Los Angeles is the first DeCA store to use solar energy, Page said the agency plans to seek additional opportunities to apply innovative energy technology at commissaries worldwide in areas with the highest utility costs. "This is a demonstration project that can springboard into future ventures," he said. 

DeCA is testing other types of energy conservation projects like the one at Fort Meade, Md., where the commissary has replaced fluorescent tubes in refrigerated cases with fiber optic lights, cutting lighting electricity use in the cases by more than half. Additionally, many of the agency's commissaries use heat reclaimed from refrigeration systems for space and water heating. 

The Los Angeles Commissary conserves other resources by recycling plastic, cardboard, and fat and bone scraps, and it uses energy-efficient lighting. Commissaries worldwide sell energy-saving light bulbs, environmentally friendly cleaning products and reusable grocery bags.