News: 380 AEW ‘goes green’
Story by Master Sgt. April Lapetoda
SOUTHWEST ASIA – “Going green” is a popular catchphrase, but for the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, it’s more than just words.
One way the 380 AEW is helping to reduce energy dependence is through the use of solar-powered light carts and street lights, said Curt Williams, 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron environmental program manager here.
In both solar light carts and street lights, solar panels convert sunlight into electrical energy, he explained. Batteries then store the energy to enable later use, regardless of the presence of direct sunlight.
Several of the solar light carts also have a wind turbine to generate additional wind-power energy to charge the built-in battery charger as a test case to observe any benefits, said Williams. To date, they have proven to be operating sufficiently.
Since the installation of the first solar carts here in August 2011, the 380 AEW now has 196 solar street lights and 26 solar light carts, said Williams, who is originally from Rochester, N.Y.
“Just having one solar light cart working produces a cost avoidance of $12,000 per year,” he said. With 26 light carts here, the 380 AEW is saving $312,000 per year.
“The top benefit is minimizing the consumption of fuel,” said Williams. “Solar light carts reduce the use of fuel to zero.”
A second benefit of the use of solar light carts and street lights is the environmental impact.
During periodic maintenance of diesel-powered light carts, hazardous waste such as used oil, fuel and oil filters is produced, said Williams. When spills occur, these substances can contaminate the soil.
“Secondary containment is not required with solar light carts as with the fuel powered light carts,” he said “Additionally, there are no oil or fuel leaks or soil contamination to contend with as associated with filling the fuel tanks every two to three days.”
Solar light carts eliminate the need for secondary containment as there is no hazardous waste produced.
“Additionally, solar street lights are self-sufficient and do not rely upon the power grid so there’s no consumed energy,” said Williams.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, use of solar-powered light carts and street lights save both time and money.
Solar lights save time for those who would be assigned to maintain them because they’re easier to maintain, said Air Force Senior Airman Jason Carniewski, an electrical systems journeyman assigned to the 380 ECES, who is also helping install solar street lights here. This savings of time will continue to benefit Airmen who deploy here in the future.
With the exception of making adjustments to the timers and control panels, the only maintenance required is cleaning the panels and, over time, replacement of the storage batteries, he said.
Portability is another advantage of solar street lights.
Although they sit on concrete support bases, solar street lights don’t require any excavation or underground wiring, which enables them to be easily moved if there’s a need, said Williams.
“Each light is independent,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Jeremy Field, 380 ECES electrical systems NCO in charge. “It (has) its own solar panel, its own set of batteries, its own controller and its own foundation. Since they are independent from one another, if one unit loses its ability to power up the fixture only that one will be affected, leaving the others still on.”
Another benefit to solar light carts is that they’re both noiseless and emission-free.
When solar light carts are parked near tents, there’s no noise disturbance to personnel who are sleeping or risk of breathing diesel exhaust, said Williams.
With all the benefits of solar light carts and street lights, many users want to know how it affects them.
“It’s really seamless to the user,” said Williams. “The lighting may appear to be a somewhat different type of lighting, but all they know is that they have light here, there’s no noise and there’s no additional power cost.”
From a safety standpoint, users also reap the benefit of not losing lighting due to power outages.
“If we are to lose commercial power to the base, since the lights are off the grid, they would remain on throughout the outage, thus providing an emergency lighting source,” said Field.