MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Mentally account for all personal or business electrical appliances, gizmos and gadgets used daily. Now imagine your efficient schedule ground to a halt due to a power outage. That lasts for days. Perhaps weeks.
Impossible? A recent study by New York-based Allied Business Intelligence, a technology research firm, predicts that in the next eight years, a growing strain on energy resources in the United States will lead to greater power shortages.
Why? Energy demand is outpacing supply with new, bigger private homes going up and half a million new commercial buildings built every year. What excess energy existing in one part of the country is often difficult to transfer.
By 2007, up to 150 billion watts of new energy capacity will be needed in the United States, according to ABI.
"It ain't free," said Jerry Rowlands, base Public Works Division's energy awareness coordinator. Last fiscal year, the base electric bill was nearly 23 million dollars.
"The check is in the mail"
Historically, the bases' energy demand spikes during August and January - respectively, the hottest and coldest months regionally. Progress Energy, the Carolina's electricity powerhouse, provides the base roughly 70,000 kilowatts per month under a billing schedule called Real Time Pricing. With this program, a usage baseline is established. A flat rate or "real time price" is charged for the normal "customer load." Any overage is charged according to fluctuating market prices. Anytime the base uses less energy than the established baseline, the bill is credited. Jones/Onslow electric cooperative provides only slightly more than one percent of total energy consumption.
According to Progress Energy, real time pricing rates reflect the marginal cost of energy or the cost of operations and maintenance and energy losses incurred in delivery - referred to as resistance. Certain tariffs and the cost of providing additional energy during peak hours are also included in the rate.
Any time usage rises above the baseline, which might usually occur around 3 p.m., or the hottest part of a summer day, the base is subject to higher than normal costs. Something the base general, essentially a city manager, closely watches.
Some military installations in hot climates, such as those in Arizona and on islands Guam and Cape Hatteras, N.C., have instituted adjusted or reduced working hours to combat high energy bills, said Jeff Ricks, a retired U.S. Navy electronics technician now working to manage Lejeune's energy demand.
"Tropical hours they called them. Normally worked from six 'til two," he said.
"Some months we save ten thousand dollars. Other months we pay ten thousand more than usual," said Jim Sides, base assistant utilities director.
Hence, the rational behind the base energy office's periodical Energy Alert messages broadcast via e-mail and energy conservation education programs at Lejeune schools. Energy-saving projects by students, teachers, school administrators and base personnel here were recognized by the Department of Energy recently. Through their efforts, energy spending was reduced by nearly six percent from 2002 to 2003, thereby saving $35,000.
Costly renovations that save money
Most buildings on base have been modernerized to meet energy-saving standards, said Fountain Taylor, base architect and engineer project manager. Others like Tarawa Terrace and Midway Park Housing areas are undergoing a complete reconstruct. Many original buildings, like the H-style barracks now pulling administration duty, have or are currently being up-dated with new heating and air conditioning units, insulation and double-paned windows.
"Any such renovations to a building make it more efficient," said Sides, who holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and is a registered professional engineer in North Carolina.
Base energy experts are also researching and considering various backup energy sources such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, fuel cell alternatives as well as biomass, essentially burning trash or wood chips. However, such endeavors are usually considered cost prohibitive.
"In the Southeastern United States, we're blessed with low cost energy, so conservation projects are hard sells and take longer to pay for," claimed Sides. Regardless, a bank of 20-year-old solar heating panels atop a Courthouse Bay barracks was recently retrofitted for operation and is working well, he said.
When faced with a financial crunch, a city manager or in our case - the base general, will pay the energy bill at the expense of other "discretionary programs, " said Rowlands, who briefs new base residents on energy conservation.
"Be reasonable about energy use," he said. "Set thermostats properly. Do laundry in the morning. Run the dish washer at night ... outside of peak energy usage hours. And keep doors and windows closed."
Summer comfort tips
During the summer season, North Carolina weather becomes hot and muggy. This high temperature and humidity places a large burden on Camp Lejeune's air conditioning systems and in turn on the electric utility system. By properly operating air conditioning systems aboard the Camp Lejeune complex, base energy managers not only improve comfort for building occupants, but also decrease the overall need for electricity.
Indoor comfort is dependent upon both temperature (how hot or cold the air is) and humidity (how much moisture is in the air). Humidity can actually be more important to comfort than temperature. As humidity increases, the range of temperatures that is comfortable gets smaller. Air conditioning's purpose is to both cool and dehumidify, but if the temperature is low and the humidity is high, a person can be cold and hot at the same time - cold due to the temperature and hot and sweaty due to the humidity. Outdoor humidity at Camp Lejeune is very high during the summer. Because of this, it is important that outdoor air allowed to enter buildings is controlled by keeping windows and doors closed.
It is also important to maintain proper thermostat settings. This will allow air conditioning systems to cool and remove humidity as they were designed. The proper thermostat setting for Camp Lejeune air conditioners is 76°F, per Base Order 11300.1J. Air conditioning systems are designed to properly cool at this setting. If thermostats are turned too low, temperatures can reach the "dew point" or the temperature at which moisture forms on surfaces. If windows and doors are left open or if structural problems exist within the building, the inside dew point can easily rise to 70°F. Reaching the dew point inside buildings can cause mold to form, which introduces health and structural concerns on top of comfort and energy concerns.
Camp Lejeune residents can enjoy a comfortable indoors, minimize energy costs and reduce health and structural concerns by following these two simple steps:
Keep windows and doors closed
Set thermostats properly.
Consider window fans, ceiling fans or whole-house fans, which use much less power, as an alternative to air conditioners.
Close your blinds, shades or draperies during the hottest part of the day.
Shut off your air conditioner if you leave home for an extended period of time.
Air conditioners work to remove humidity, so reserve moisture-making jobs such as dishwashing, laundry and bathing for either early morning or at night when it's
Shade the outdoor air conditioning unit if possible. A unit in the sun will use up to five percent more energy than one in the shade.
Clean or replace the central air-conditioning filter monthly. Clean the filter in window units as well. It's behind the front panel.
Install energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. They give off less heat and use as much as 75 percent less energy than regular bulbs.
Repair broken or cracked glass and putty older windows; check to see that windows close properly and window locks pull sashes together.
Make sure doors close properly. Repair or replace non-working doorknobs, latches and striker plates.
Weatherproof windows, doors and attic accesses. Caulk frames around windows and doors from the inside using a clear, pliable caulk.
Ensure fireplaces are fitted with a tight sealing damper that is closed when the fireplace is not in use. If used infrequently, use a chimney block to eliminate heat loss.
Caulk foundation cracks and openings. Make sure kitchen and bathroom vent dampers close properly.
Install automatic setback thermostats that adjust the heat to your schedule.
Insulate attics (especially attics with less than seven inches of insulation), walls, and flooring over unheated crawl spaces or basements.
Install exterior storm windows, including cellar storm windows. For windows that are rarely opened, consider installing interior storm windows.
Replace standard curtains with tight sealing, insulated or quilted window coverings.
Indoor electrical safety:
When using appliances and power tools, read and follow all manufacturers instructions.
Never overload a circuit. Large appliances need separate circuits.
Replace worn plugs, wires, or extension cords.
Never run cords under rugs or over heaters.
Avoid using or storing appliances near water.
Childproof outlets with safety covers. Teach children electrical safety.
Never leave small children unattended near electric appliances, lamps, fans, heaters or motors.
Install ground fault interrupt outlets near sinks and outdoors.
Outdoor electrical safety:
Keep away from power lines.
Before digging, call Dig Safe at 1-888-DIG-SAFE or logon to www.digsafe.com to schedule underground utilities locating. The service is free.
If a tree has power lines running through it, call the light department. Do not attempt to trim the tree yourself.
Leave downed wires alone. Never attempt to move anyone in contact with a live wire. Call for help immediately.