Green in the Desert

 Davis-Monthan is leading the way in turning Air Force blue into green. As the future home of one of the largest solar-energy generating capacities in the Department of Defense, D-M is shaping a cleaner energy future here in the Sonoran Desert. The DM Energy Team, made up of members of of the 355th Civil Engineering Squadron, develops resource conservation initiatives on base. Working under the guidance of the United States Air Force Infrastructure Energy Strategic Plan, the DM Energy Team has begun redeveloping the base's strategy with high-tech solutions to meet Air Force wide mandates in four areas: new technology, strategic partnerships, energy awareness, and focus on the basics. With innovation and energy consciousness in every Airman's life, we can meet the Air Force goal to "Think green, build green, and fly blue."

Solar Projects

Solar Photo Voltaic Project

D-M's most impressive move towards energy goals is the 14.5 MW solar PV project. Covering 130 acres of underutilized land at two locations on the base, the solar PV project is expected to provide approximately 35 percent of the base electricity requirements, reducing base utilities cost by an average of $500,000 annually. With a combination of 6 MW at the solar array at Soaring Heights Communities and the expected 14.5 MW from the new array, D-M will be home to one of the largest solar-energy generating capacities in the Department of Defense. This new solar array will drastically improve D-M's carbon footprint and environmental compliance.

Soaring Heights Community Photo Voltaic Array

Soaring Heights Communities is home to one of the largest community-based photo voltaic arrays in the Continental U.S. Made up of ground and roof-mounted arrays, this project supplies 75 percent of electric usage to more than 200 new homes for base housing. This modern, integrated community of more than 200 new homes can be a major source of pride for those living on base. By shifting nearly 75% of their energy from coal to solar, the community has reduced coal consumption by about 1,125 tons per year; reduced CO2 emissions by approximately 2,587 tons per year; and saved about 1,463,000 gallons of water used for energy production from coal every year!

Domestic Solar Hot-Water Preheaters

Currently D-M uses solar-powered water pre-heaters for four dormitories, the Benko and Haeffner Fitness Centers, and the outdoor pool. Solar preheaters reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat domestic water by using thermal energy from the sun to heat incoming water before it gets to a storage tank or traditional water heater, saving energy that would otherwise come from natural gas or electricity. Solar-thermal applications such as water pre-heaters are the most direct and efficient use of solar energy.

Other Initiatives

Gas Engine Driven Air Conditioners

GEDACs combine standard air conditioning technology with natural gas driven engines. The use of natural gas for air conditioning purposes helps reduce electrical transmission capacity problems and provide increased energy conservation as space cooling is the major factor in electric energy consumption and peak electrical demand for military facilities.

Four buildings on Davis-Monthan use GEDACs to air condition and heat their space. These units shave peak electrical demand up to 50 kW total a month or about $1,000 a month.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification

LEED standards are used on every new building constructed on D-M. These principles help promote resource efficiency, healthy indoor environmental quality, the latest energy systems, use of recycled materials and innovative design principles. Thirteen Military Construction Projects have been registered to be certified as LEED Silver level. In order to be certified at the Silver level a building must receive at least 50 points, earned from a number of different areas that adhere to LEED standards. Some upcoming LEED projects at D-M include the simulator facilities, AMARG infrastructure, and the visitor quarters on base.

Boiler Projects

For winter months, D-M is currently replacing 42 boilers with more efficient boilers that will save an estimated 20 percent of base-wide natural gas consumption and over $350,000 a year in utilities costs. Another project planned for late 2011 will replace boilers at 11 more buildings.

Future Projects

To accomplish Air Force renewable energy goals, the DM Energy Team is continuously generating new green ideas on base. Some of the proposed projects are described below.

During the blistering summer months, Thermal Storage Plants provide one option for cooling buildings on base. Don't be fooled by the word "thermal" though, these plants produce ice during the night to help cool during the day. This innovative technology can remove 1,200 kW significantly reducing peak energy costs.

At the youth center, the DM Energy Team is partnering with NASA and NAVFAC to construct a solar air conditioner at no cost for D-M. Construction is set to begin in February 2011 and this project is expected to provide 90 percent reduction in energy use from the current system.

D-M also partners with the University of Arizona's School of Architecture Graudate Program to perform energy audits on base. . The "House Energy Doctors", as they call themselves, will use their energy modeling lab to identify energy saving opportunities. They have already finished a project at the BX and have more plans for semesters to come.