Truax Field continues going 'green'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jon LaDue
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
When Airmen of the 115th Civil Engineer Squadron tell people they are "going green," there is an emphasis on going, as in ... ongoing. 

Despite already being the first, and only, Air National Guard base of 92 to purchase 100 percent of its power from renewable "green" energy sources, the 115th Fighter Wing refuses to rest on its successes. With an immeasurable and indefinite end-goal of reducing Truax Field's energy footprint, the Wing continually looks at ways to not only reduce energy consumption, but explore other renewable energy methods as well. 

"Wisconsin has always been a leader in environmental stewardship and I believe the (Wing) needs to pick up with that leadership and apply it to the National Guard," said Col. Joseph Brandemuehl, 115 FW Commander. "Our Airmen know I expect that of them and it has been a great unit-wide effort." 

Currently, Truax Field has a partnership with a local energy company, Madison Gas & Electric, to purchase all of its energy from wind farms in Wisconsin and Iowa. This means the 4.5 million kilowatt-hours consumed at Truax Field each year won't be coming from traditional coal power plants that emit environmentally harmful pollutants. The amount of burned coal reduced each year is roughly 3.3 million pounds, or roughly the weight of more than 100 F-16 Fighting Falcons. 

The 115th Fighter Wing is MG&E's fourth largest consumer of renewable energy, but it is the second largest customer that purchases 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources. 

"Having wind energy in our resource mix avoids the use of conventional power plants that use coal or natural gas," said Steve Pitts, MG&E construction engineer. "It's customers like the 115th Fighter Wing  that participate significantly in our Green Power of Tomorrow program that means more and more energy can come from our wind program." 

The Wing has completed many projects already and even more are in the works. These projects promote environmental stewardship and have exceeded the minimum requirements set forth by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which governs many energy reduction and environmental impact issues. 

"As public servants we need to be smart and vigilant stewards of the resources and environment entrusted to us," said Lt. Col. Bryan Anders, acting 115 CES commander. "The initiative to go green and reduce our environmental impact is a big part of our strategy." 

In addition to using renewable energy, Truax's civil engineers are busy researching, planning and implementing many different projects that will reduce the amount of energy consumed at Truax Field. 

The civil engineer staff has installed occupancy sensors in roughly 90 percent of offices, meeting areas, break rooms and bathrooms, which has eliminated wasteful lighting; they've shut down select outdoor street and building lights during low-use or night-time periods and have also implemented a heating and cooling control program that reduces energy consumption, said Senior Master Sgt. David Martin, 115 CES facilities manager. 

One of the larger projects being looked at is the acquisition of light-emitting diode fixtures. Civil engineer Airmen are so convinced that LED fixtures are the future of energy efficiency that they have installed eight of them in their own squadron building. Current fluorescent light banks cost $68 per year to operate while the new LED banks operate annually on just $12. The lights are just as bright as traditional lighting and with more than 70 light banks in the CE squadron building alone, the base-wide savings could be immense. Three outdoor LED fixtures, which operate on 60 percent less energy, have also been installed around base. 

Other projects in the research and development phase are the purchase of solar collector panels that could be built into three upcoming roof upgrades and the installation of geothermal heat pumps, which utilize the earth's temperature to regulate building temperature. Both of these are additional renewable energy practices that would help Truax Field further set the standard among ANG bases when it comes to energy-conscious and more environmentally friendly military installations. 

Although devices like occupancy sensors take the guess work out of being energy conscious, the CE squadron is also planning on implementing smart metering in all main facilities across base. These meters will monitor all the electric, water, and gas usage around-the-clock to provide data on how to efficiently govern energy and utilities. 

"It's not all about replacing hardware, it's about changing our behavior and how we use our resources," said Colonel Anders. 

There is a significant drive for every government entity to become greener and the Airmen of the 115 CES continue to aggressively pursue equipment and processes that contribute to that initiative. This means greater environmental responsibility for today and tomorrow. 

Sergeant Martin added, "Our Wing motto is 'Dedicated to Excellence' and we constantly strive to reduce our energy footprint by exploring energy reduction efforts. We are looking forward to our first solar collectors and our many other upcoming projects."