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Ellsworth celebrates Earth Day year-round

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
Forty-five years ago U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day, and with that, activated the modern environmental movement. Earth Day has steadily grown to the largest civic observance in the world with more than one billion people participating every year on April 22.

Airmen at Ellsworth celebrate Earth Day by making substantial impacts on the environment year-round and are led by the efforts of the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron.

Ted Cleberg, 28th CES Base Energy Manager, oversees building energy renovations on base, focusing on reducing energy intensity. Cleberg strives to reach a 30 percent reduction in energy intensity goal, set by the Air Force across all installations, that has been in the works since 2003 when the initial energy use baseline started.

"I think we will make that goal," said Cleberg. 

At the end of 2014, Ellsworth had achieved a 23 percent reduction in its energy intensity and is on track to reaching the Air Force goal by the end of this year, according to Cleberg.

Energy intensity is measured in million British thermal units (MBTUs) divided by the square footage of the building space. An MBTU is equivalent to a dekatherm of natural gas or 3,412 times a kilowatt of electricity. 

Energy intensity reduction also means a huge savings of money.  Twelve years ago when Ellsworth started tracking energy intensity, the base has saved a total of $11 million.

Cleberg credits the energy and cost savings to efficient building repairs, demolition of old and inefficient buildings, highly effective shop repairs, and awareness and support from building occupants. "We can't get away from using energy," said Cleberg. "I want people to use energy, but efficiently and effectively."

There are currently 18 energy projects the 28th CES is working on, totaling $15.6 million. The savings on these projects in energy efficiency is currently $1.2 million annually. The challenge in trying to continually reduce energy usage lies in finding energy efficiencies, Cleberg noted.

Cleberg said one of the biggest improvements to buildings was made on the base museum last year.

"The entire building was retrofitted to new light-emitting diode (LED) lights.  We also installed energy efficient windows, and made improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems in the building. After those improvements were made, we estimated a 30 percent reduction in energy intensity," said Cleberg.

The biggest challenge all Air Force installations face by 2020 is making all new buildings "net zero" - a mandate set by a recent Presidential Executive Order -  which means new buildings will have to generate enough energy to offset what it takes to heat and light the building.

"There are efficient sustainable energy sources out there," said Cleberg. Some "clean" energy sources are natural gas generation, solar energy and wind generators including vertical windmills atop of buildings.

"An important thing we can do is continually look for energy efficiencies in our current facilities. We work on energy projects funded on savings.  So our Airmen in the CE shops are doing a lot of our energy project work which saves labor costs in those projects," said Cleberg. 

Most of the retrofitting of older buildings is done by Airmen and some local contractors. "The experience our Airmen are gaining in doing these projects is incredible," said Cleberg.

Even though it is only one day a year, the importance of Earth Day isn't lost on the overall focus of the 28th CES. "We have a responsibility to the tax payer and the environment to make sure we are doing everything we can to reduce energy usage," said Cleberg.