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Solar plans on the horizon for 162nd

Tech. Sgt. Martin Buelow, a power support systems mechanic, performs maintenance on a Flood Light Model 1D on base. These flood lights, which run on JP-8 fuel, will soon be replaced by solar-powered lights that will greatly reduce the unit’s annual energy consumption. (Air National Guard photo by Krystal Tomlin)

Tech. Sgt. Martin Buelow, a power support systems mechanic, performs maintenance on a Flood Light Model 1D on base. These flood lights, which run on JP-8 fuel, will soon be replaced by solar-powered lights that will greatly reduce the unit’s annual energy consumption. (Air National Guard photo by Krystal Tomlin)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The 162nd Fighter Wing here is on its way to meeting federal goals in the reduction of energy consumption with plans to use solar-powered lights.

The wing recently approved the purchase of six trailer-mounted solar lighting systems to replace the current flood lights around the base.

"These types of units are fairly new to the market. We are looking at obtaining two heavy duty and four regular units. Two heavy duty units are needed at FOD stops on base so wing members can see clearly when checking vehicle tires at night for small rocks lodged in the treads," said Cheryl Settle, environmental program specialist and project manager. "A contract for bid should be out by the end of the fiscal year."

Mandated by federal Executive Order 13423, the Air Force and all federal agencies are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through reduction of energy intensity by three percent annually through the end of fiscal year 2015, or by 30 percent by the end of fiscal year 2015, relative to the baseline of the agency's energy use in fiscal year 2003.

"The environmental benefits of switching to solar will enable the reduction in use of fossil fuels, conserve energy and minimize air pollution. Monetary benefits will be from the reduction of gas use. In fuel alone, the wing will see a savings of more than $37,000 a year," said Settle.

According to estimates and cost analysis from the wing environmental office, fuel use for lighting will be reduced to zero dollars and the eco-friendly units will have a projected six-year savings of more than $200,000.

"The project will save enough fuel and labor to pay for itself in two years, which is an incredible payback," said Lt. Col. Mark Berge, 162nd environmental manager. "Reducing emissions by eliminating JP-8 powered lights and using a renewable energy source meets a lot of the goals set forth in the executive order."

Some of the additional benefits of using eco-friendly, trailer-mounted solar lights include silent operation, mobility for rapid deployment, automatic unattended operation and minimal maintenance to name a few.

"Moveable solar trailers have so much more flexibility. If we move a FOD stop we are not hindered by a permanently mounted light pole. If we have an emergency we can move these to any location," said Settle.

Aerospace ground equipment and security forces currently use and maintain Flood Light Model 1Ds (FL-1D) which run on a JP-8-fueled generator. The lights are turned on at night for security and perimeter lighting purposes and operate 12 hours a day, 365 days a year.

"We use the FL-1D not only for lighting but for special tools on the flight line. We're excited about switching to solar as it will cut costs on fuel and maintenance man-hours," said Tech. Sgt. Martin Buelow, power support systems mechanic.

On average it can take approximately 40 minutes to turn on all six flood lights and they only illuminate from above. The new system will illuminate at a lower level as well.

"They will have motion-sensored ballast fluorescents that turn on when a vehicle approaches. This will ensure lighting is available only when it's needed instead of having the lights constantly running at night," said Settle.

The environmental management office also oversees the base recycling program which generates funds for the wing's Qualified Recycling Program (QRP). The solar light project will be entirely funded by the QRP.