News>$7.5 million geothermal-energy project in the works for Langley
Story at a Glance
There are seven buildings on the Air Combat Command campus, including ACC headquarters, which are part of this project. Geoexchange systems will use the earth's energy-storage capability to heat and cool buildings. The geothermal wells will consist of a system of pipes buried vertically, roughly 400 feet deep.
This parking lot next to Air Combat Command Headquarters is one of two locations planned for geothermal-energy wells at Langley Air Force Base, Va. The 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron said construction could begin as early as November and would put this parking lot out of commission for at least a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Randy Redman/ Released)
A geothermal-energy well is designed to use pipes buried deep in the ground to use the uniform temperature of the earth to transfer heat into buildings in the winter, and cool buildings in the summer. The $7.5 million dollar project at Langley Air Force Base, Va., will take roughly one year to complete.
by Tech. Sgt. Randy Redman
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/19/2011 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- With contracts out to bid on a $7.5 million project, engineers of the 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron are eagerly anticipating breaking ground on an environmentally-friendly, geothermal-energy project on the Air Combat Command campus.
Donald White, 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron energy/utility manager, said geothermal power typically means using heat to generate steam, which turns a generator to create electricity.
"That's not what we're doing here," said White. "This system will use the uniform temperature of the earth to transfer heat into the buildings in the winter, and cool the buildings in the summer."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified geothermal heat pumps as a technology that significantly reduces greenhouse gas and other air emissions associated with heating, cooling and water heating residential buildings, while saving consumers money, compared to conventional technologies. According to the EPA, geothermal heat pump systems, also known as geoexchange, are the most energy-efficient, environmentally-clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available.
There are seven buildings on the ACC campus, including ACC headquarters, which are part of this project. White said a similar project in 1999 took out the old heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system and transferred it to a water-based system. That system uses a water tower next to the ACC campus to expel the heat energy from these buildings. That tower was originally used by NASA for projects in a massive, wind tunnel, which is currently being demolished. This project will turn control of that water tower back to NASA.
Dan Porter, 633rd CES chief of construction management, is the project manager for this endeavor. He said this project will eliminate the need for the cooling tower and use ground source wells for heating and cooling purposes.
Porter said the wells will consist of a system of pipes buried vertically, roughly 400 feet deep. There will be two well locations; one with 573 pipes and another with 300 pipes. This project will not affect the internal HVAC system.
Geoexchange systems use the earth's energy-storage capability to heat and cool buildings. The earth is a huge energy-storage device that absorbs 47 percent of the sun's energy -- more than 500 times more energy than mankind needs every year -- in the form of clean, renewable energy. Geoexchange systems take this heat during the heating season at an efficiency approaching or exceeding 400 percent and return it during the cooling season.
The EPA has found that geoexchange systems are much more efficient than competing fuel technologies. They are an average of 48 percent more efficient than the best gas furnaces on a source fuel basis, and more than 75 percent more efficient than oil furnaces. In fact, today's best geoexchange systems outperform the best gas technology, gas heat pumps, by an average of 36 percent in heating mode and 43 percent in cooling mode.
This is the new reality of the U.S. military, which is under orders to conserve energy and water, use cleaner alternative energies, recycle more wastes, work in environmentally-designed offices and barracks, and drive fuel-efficient vehicles. The changes have been mandated in congressional directives and presidential orders, most dating to former President George W. Bush but expanded upon by President Barack Obama.
"Using the heating and cooling properties from the ground is what makes this a renewable resource," said White. "Recent policy changes in federal regulations encourage the use of renewable energy, and this helps us do our part."
The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that if geoexchange systems were installed nationwide, they could save several billion dollars annually in energy costs and substantially reduce pollution. Here at Langley, the business case analysis estimates the total utility and maintenance cost savings to be nearly $350,000 annually.
ACC personnel will face an unfortunate side effect from this project during its construction. As if parking wasn't already an issue around the ACC campus, it will be even more challenging in the coming months. Porter said the wells will be buried beneath two of the largest parking lots on the campus, with the largest well directly next to ACC headquarters.
White said he expects the contract to be awarded by the end of September, and construction to begin as early as November. More details will be available on how this will affect the parking on the ACC campus after the project has been awarded to a construction company.
"Seven different contractors have put in bids, and they are currently being reviewed. The project is being handled by the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency, they are the ones who are handling the project from a contracting aspect," said Porter, who will be the 'boots on the ground' with contract oversight for the 633rd CES and AFCESA..
In all, Porter and White agree that the project should take at least a year from start to finish. Part of that time will be spent doing all the necessary research to ensure the well bores and connecting pipes avoid unidentified conflicts. He said there is potential to run into complications once they start digging.
"Since Langley is the oldest federal property in use for the Air Force, there are all sorts of surprises when you put a shovel to the ground," said Porter.
Today, there are now more than 750,000 geoexchange installations in the United States. Here at Langley, the 633rd Air Base Wing headquarters and Bldg. 441 just south of that already have geothermal wells in use.