News: Vermont Air National Guard wins federal energy award
Story by Senior Airman Victoria Greenia
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - The Green Mountain Boys has once more proved its colors; the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG) was selected as an outstanding achiever of energy conservation by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Vice Wing Commander Col. Thomas Jackman, along with Adam Wright and Peter Dufault, civilians who comprise the Vermont air base’s environmental management office, proudly received the 2013 award in Boston, June 26, on behalf of the unit.
The award is part of a program the EPA created to encourage government agencies to reduce their environmental impacts. Environment sustainability is already part of executive orders that President Obama signed in late 2009 requiring each agency to reduce gas pollution, gas use, and waste while increasing planet-friendly equipment use and water conservation. Dubbed the Federal Green Challenge, the program is voluntary and requires each agency that participates to choose from six “target areas.”
The VTANG focused on energy and waste reduction.
When it became clear that the air base would have access to $8.5 million to use for energy upgrades through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, base civil engineering (CE) jumped on the opportunity. Together with Wright and Dufault, every aspect of the base was considered so that they could maximize the impact. The main portion of the project became an array of solar photovoltaic panels built on base, which is estimated to produce a $219,000 annual savings.
In separate projects, the recently built firefighter station and new security forces building on base are equipped with solar panels and ground source heat pumps (GSHP). These pumps take advantage of the stable temperature of the ground (around 55 degrees) to either help warm a building in the winter or cool it in the summer, reducing heater or air conditioner use. The fire station is already certified at Gold level by the Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED, a rating system for eco-friendly buildings) and the security forces building is also soon to be certified LEED Gold.
“The Vermont Guard loved this idea,” Wright said. But there were outside people who were critical of the plan, since the payoff is decades out.
People not seeing the bigger picture, Wright said, is a problem. With a financial crisis seeming to constantly loom, it’s understandable that the public is eager for an immediate return on everything the government does. However, if being environmentally friendly were cheap and easy, it would have been done a long time ago. Going green is a commitment to the earth first, and then the economy.
Jackman is confident that the VTANG will welcome any energy improvements that become available to the base.
“One hundred and fifty years ago,” he said, “Union General John Sedgwick ordered the Vermonters ahead. He specifically asked for Vermonters because of their reputation for leading the way and the pace of their advance. Today the Green Mountain Boys are honoring that legacy by being one of the few air bases equipped with solar arrays and by already exceeding our goal to reduce environmental impact.”
Jackman said he looks forward to the potential of the VTANG “leading the way with new and innovative green energy projects” which will cease to be a novelty and instead become the standard; other bases will look to the Vermont Air National Guard and see that sustainability in the military can be done.