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Energy action steam decentralization on JBLM

Banana Belt motor pool buildings circa 1954.Photo credit: JBLM Directorate of Public Works

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD -  The energy program on Joint Base Lewis-McChord leads in taking energy action for sustainable working and living conditions. One project that exhibits this drive is the decentralization of heating plants for the Korean War-era "hammerhead" barracks situated east of Gray Army Airfield on Lewis Main, commonly referred to as the Banana Belt.

This project was contracted by the Army Corps of Engineers and funded under the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program, an energy conservation component of the Military Construction Fund. Design kicked off in April 2018 and construction started in November 2019.

Central heat plants burn fossil fuels, like fuel oil and natural gas, in large boilers to create hot water and steam, which is then distributed through underground pipes throughout the base. Each building taps into the distribution system to access the heat.

With central heat plants, the system can satisfy a base's heating requirements but the most life cycle cost effective alternative is to decentralize this heating system. That's because approximately 15% of the heat generated is lost in the miles of ageing distribution piping.

Decentralizing the system and installing smaller high efficiency boilers in each building will save energy and increase resiliency by reducing the single point of failure that a central plant poses.

"This is a huge win for JBLM," said Matt Schreck, JBLM energy program manager. "This project is a win-win for JBLM as the power project platform strives to sustain energy efficiency and resiliency moving forward."

The current decentralization project encompasses 58 buildings and is nearing completion. Most of the buildings will be completed by March including the new mechanical rooms added on to buildings 3446 and 3481. Plant 11 will stay online to feed the 3400 block with heat and hot water until it is no longer needed around June 1 of this year.

Another great part of this decentralization is that there is the Puget Sound Energy's Commercial Retrofit Grant program, which estimates savings of more than $304,000 per year for this project. PSE's calculated rebate for the project will bring $1.7 million to JBLM. This money will go back into future energy savings projects to provide more savings and more rebates.

"It's the gift that keeps on giving," Schreck said. "There is a lot that can get lost in the shuffle with electricity. The fossil fuel reductions from the large natural gas savings from this decentralization, and the large utility rebates that will further fund energy projects at JBLM is something that needs a spotlight."


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