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Solar panels slash energy costs at 123rd AW

This photo illustration depicts a planned solar array for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron building at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The array is expected to save the base approximately $18,000 a year in energy costs. (Photo by Philip Speck)

This photo illustration depicts a planned solar array for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron building at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The array is expected to save the base approximately $18,000 a year in energy costs. (Photo by Philip Speck)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The 123rd Airlift Wing is installing solar panels at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base as part of a clean energy project that’s expected to trim $18,000 annually from the wing’s electric bill.

The panels will be installed on the roof of the Civil Engineer Building by the end of the year, substantially reducing the wing’s reliance on energy provided by fossil fuel-burning power plants operated by Louisville Gas & Electric, said Lt. Col. Keith McCallie, deputy base civil engineer for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

The move falls in line with a mandate from the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to begin replacing fossil fuels with “green” energy and reduce power consumption by 20 percent over the next year, he said.

“This technology has changed drastically in the last five years,” McCallie added. “It is definitely improving commercially and becoming more affordable for everyone, even for residential homes.”

Though calculating exact figures is difficult, the impact will be significant, according to Tom Spalding, energy manager for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

“The sun doesn’t have the same intensity on any square meter of Earth year-round,” Spalding said. “As it moves or changes position, the angles are going to change on that unless you have a power storage backup somehow.

“Altogether, the four sets of arrays (to be installed) can generate 84 to 120 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to provide power to more than 40 homes.”

According to McCallie, the money saved on energy costs will pay for the expense of installing the solar panels in just a few years, paving the way for even more energy resiliency projects.

“We’re looking at a return on investment of the solar array for this building in the next eight to 10 years,” he said. “We’re using this as a test bed. I’m sure there’s going to be other energy projects that come along.

“This base is now over 25 years old, so equipment is starting to deteriorate very quickly,” McCallie added. “Structures are starting to become an issue, so there are projects now being looked at to replace those bad portions and replace the equipment in the facilities with better, energy-efficient equipment.”

Spalding said other energy-saving projects are on the horizon, including those that use new technologies.

“Our overall goal has been to try and conserve and save money,” Spalding said. “Looking forward, if we get more of our plans implemented, we will see microturbines in the future based on natural gas, which leverages all the new natural gas resources that are available to us.”

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