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Energy use down--brain power up

GOWEN FIELD, Boise, Idaho -- The 124 Civil Engineering Squadron is half way through a decade-long energy program that will affect every workplace, every guardsman and civilian, and how they operate at Gowen Field. Huge sums of energy, (measured in British Thermal Units) money, and brain power (in the form of extensive re-engineering and energy auditing) are in motion to insure Gowen's compliance with federal guidelines.

According to MSgt Travis Jones (124thCES/CEO) Gowen Field has exceeded all federal goals, remains ahead of many other bases in innovation, and saved 19.7 percent in energy usage last year compared to 2003. This number must drop further--to below 30 percent (of 2003 energy usage) by 2015. Closing this last gap could prove the most challenging. "As we complete the big building projects that affect our largest structures, we begin to run out of low-hanging fruit," MSgt Jones said.

The goals of the base energy plan may have seemed distant to most 124th Wing members outside of CE. That is likely to change. "We've emphasized larger spaces (where it's easier to save big), but the scrutiny is coming to our smaller workspaces," said Mr. Scott Busmann, 124CES Facility Manager.

Bussman believes that educating the base populace is the single most valuable energy saving tool at our collective disposal. And that as our buildings and their engineers become more technologically advanced, the end users of energy will have to have the basics on their minds. "We've got to encourage a sense of ownership from now on so that it feels routine to shut off the lights," Mr. Busmann said.

"Don't try to trick our thermostats," said MSgt Jones, "we have (software) programs that can detect cheaters--and pay you a quick visit. We can detect the in-rush (energy flow) to our total demand in each building." Translation: CE's building management computers can tell when you fire-up your (authorized) laser printer, and your (unauthorized) personal space heater or mini-fridge.

The Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 drives the base energy plan. That plan changes with the overall square footage that the Air National Guard authorizes the 124th Wing to operate with. In essence, the Base Realignment and Closure proceedings that decommissioned the 189 Airlift Squadron and Aerial Port Flight made the arithmetic harder, not easier. "We're authorized less space to accomplish our mission, MSgt Jones said.

In the future, more appliances on Gowen Field will fall under the Energy Star purchasing polices that began in 2004. The Air Force has already successfully met Energy Star certification for over 90 percent of the computers it has fielded since then. The AF Information Technology Commodity Council estimates annual savings of over $15 million. Locally the 124th Wing can expect to reap a smaller scale savings on more efficient lighting fixtures, heating systems, appliances as well as computers.

To do this Mr. Busmann believes that everyone on base will need to adapt the same attitude they have at home and act as though the energy bill is a monthly reality. Busmann explained "We need to spread the word more widely that some personal actions help us (like turning off the coffee pot), and some actions hurt us (like opening up squadron entry doors to get a breeze going)."

"When our workforce here tries to outsmart an already smart building, they usually confuse it and make the overall conditions inside much worse," said MSgt Jones.