Deployed location goes green with solar lighting
A group of 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron members install a solar light in the munitions storage area of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Oct. 17, 2011. The engineers will install 24 energy efficient solar lights providing fossil fuel savings while also enabling fixed lighting in an area of the base that is not connected to the energy grid. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Chance Babin)
by Master Sgt. Chance Babin
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
10/26/2011 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Civil engineer Airmen at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing are taking advantage of an abundant resource here, the sun.
The wing is going green by installing 24 solar-powered lights in the munitions storage area that will save money and reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
"This part of the world has an abundant amount of sun, with very little cloud cover," said Curt Williams, a contractor with the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. "Using solar-powered lighting is a natural and easy initiative to minimize the use of fossil based energy."
This initiative is in line with forcewide efforts to transform the way the Air Force uses energy by reducing demand, assuring supplies and building an energy-conscious force, officials said.
"The air component makes up a large part of the overall (Department of Defense) energy consumption bill, so we must look at every opportunity to be smart about our use rates," said Lt. Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. "It is a delicate balance to optimize support to the battlefield while ensuring we are always good stewards of our nation's finite resources. Our innovative Airmen and civilians continue to find ways to strike this balance every day as we take the fight to the enemy."
This initiative, timed perfectly for Energy Awareness Month, is a way the wing is part of those efforts.
The Airmen are putting up both solar street lights and fixed lights on sunshades within the MSA that will provide energy-free lighting, Williams said. Additional solar-powered light sets and light carts are scheduled to arrive in December.
"These light sets are virtually maintenance free, as there are no fuel or engine maintenance requirements, offering a less-than-one-year payback on the initial investment and reduced operation costs," Williams said. "This is the first of this type of energy conservation movement to help [the wing] align with overall energy conservation techniques in an effort to reduce fuel consumption and to reduce POL (petroleum, oil and lubricant) spills and associated clean-up costs."
Williams said similar lights were installed and in use in Iraq several years ago and that the 380th AEW is now taking advantage of the energy source.
"My troops are very motivated and excited about this," said Master Sgt. Joseph Moss, the NCO in charge of the electrical shop for the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. "The best part about this project is that it is something different and unique."
Using solar lights at the MSA is not only a green initiative, but also a bit of a necessity.
"The initiative is to provide lighting to the MSA to support the operation. Installation of hard power from the power grid and any excavation is not permitted per agreement with the host nation," Williams said. "Therefore, providing solar-powered lighting fits this restricted requirement."
The 380th ECES troops are installing the lights in the evening to avoid the hot weather, the very source of energy.
"We are building these lights in three separate components in one consolidated work area then moving these components to where they will be installed," said Moss, a Trenton, Ill., native. "I am proud of the work my troops accomplish and how well everyone works together to achieve our daily challenges. Teamwork is our key to success."
Energy awareness is a topic of interest across the area of responsibility and throughout the Air Force.
"The green initiative has always been present and waiting to move forward," Williams said. "This is the first movement in the electrical consumption area of this type to step up and take positive steps. These lights are being used in private industry as well as in other parts of the military world."