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JBSA continues quest to be energy smart

By Mary Nell Sanchez | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | June 8, 2018


JBSA continues its quest to be energy smart

Mary Nell Sanchez

502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas – As temperatures continue to climb, and summer is just around the corner, many people are keeping a close eye on their utility usage as they struggle to beat the heat.


Imagine this: an annual energy bill of approximately $72 million to keep the lights on; air conditioners cooling; water running; and gas appliances working all to meet the mission of Joint Base San Antonio. That is what 502nd Civil Engineering Energy and Utilities Section Chief Thomas Mieczkowski says JBSA spends.


“Our job in utilities and energies is to reduce that bill, find inefficiencies in the way we heat and cool our facilities, keep the lights on and be more effective with any other systems that use electric, gas, water or sewer,” said Mieczkowski.


JBSA’s energy bills encompasses JBSA-Lackland, Randolph, Fort Sam Houston, Camp Bullis,  Medina Annex, Seguin, Canyon Lake, and four other smaller locations. As efforts to be more energy efficient continue, some projects are already underway with the hopes of reducing that annual amount.


“We have a number of projects to replace fluorescent lighting with LED lighting, which is a huge savings,” said Mieczkowski.


Light-emitting diode, or LED, lights feature reduced wattage and last longer. Projects such as this are made possible by Air Force funding, but JBSA competes for those funds with other military installations.


“To cool our facilities and to make them comfortable, costs a lot of money,” said Mieczkowski.


There are over 4,000 facilities on JBSA, covering more than  34 million square feet inside the facilities and 47,000 acres of land, according to Erica Becvar, 502nd CES Portfolio Optimization (Programming, Planning, Energy) chief.


The practice of conserving energy is a daily challenge. All the JBSA buildings have different ages, insulation, and various hours of operation that must be considered. An example of this are the buildings at JBSA-Randolph and JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.


“We’re limited by what we can and can’t do in the buildings as we work with the Texas State Historic Preservation Office,” Becvar said.


Teaching energy awareness is also an ongoing mission.


“I want to believe people are being more conscious of [energy use], said Mieczkowski. “We are trying to encourage people to allow thermostats to get turned up.”


JBSA’s policy calls for air conditioners be set at 76 degrees during summer months and 72 degrees in colder ones.


“Most of the HVAC systems are centralized, serving various zones within a facility. Unfortunately, if zones are not designed correctly or loads change over time, it can become very difficult for a centralized system to make everybody happy,” he added.


Another measure, already implemented, to conserve energy is the Demand Response Program.  


“At a call from City Public Service during peak time, we will trim back the temperatures in some buildings. We’re only going to raise the temperatures a couple of degrees,” said Mieczkowski.


He adds his office will see how people respond to that and still maintain comfortable levels. His office will then measure and verify energy savings. If the pilot program works well, he’ll consider doing the same in other buildings.


Smart meters will also be installed on the facilities which make up 75% of the energy consumed at JBSA. The data received from these meters will allow JBSA energy managers to baseline buildings, establish benchmarks, and monitor improvements in energy usage. 


JBSA hospital facilities pose a special challenge in the quest to keep them cool because they typically use 100% outside air.


“If we are taking 100 degree outside air and cooling it down to 55 [degrees] to make it comfortable in the facility, that requires a considerable amount of energy,” Mieczkowski said.


Because every structure and mission is different, certain measures to conserve energy may not be able to be implemented. Looking ahead, newer buildings will be outfitted with energy saving features.


Overall Texas electric rates are favorable for consumers which can make the economic justification of projects more difficult.


For now, JBSA may explore  a one-degree temperature setback. When calculated using the 34 million square feet of facilities space and the cost of electricity, just the one degree change in temperature results in over $4 million in annual savings for JBSA.


“This energy measure merely requires advocacy from base personnel,” Mieczkowski said.


In October, the 502d Civil Engineering Energy and Utilities Section will partner with City Public Service at JBSA to educate people on how they can play a role in conserving energy.


For more information on about the Energy Program managed by the 502d Civil Engineering Energy and Utilities Section, contact Tom Mieczkowski at thomas.mieczkowski@us.af.mil.