Energy-use scare has Iwakuni seeing green
Stars and Stripes August 10, 2006
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — On a sweltering day last week, observers of Iwakuni’s electricity usage faced a shock: The base had reached the upper limits of the station’s electricity wattage allowance.
As temperatures reached into the 90s Aug. 2, observers saw wattages creep above 13,700 kilowatts. One watt above 13,800 would mean certain doom in the form of fines, penalties and even possibly the revocation of the electricity contract with the Chugoku Electric Co., said Petty Officer 2nd Class Gerald K. Ridley, a utilities man and the station energy manager.
It’s a limit no one wants to test. So officials quickly sent out the red, or rather green, alert.
The base instituted a green-out system in 2000 as a quick way to ask residents to cut back on power usage when the station approaches its limits. That program and other conservation efforts earned the station a Presidential Energy Management Award the following year, according to the Department of Energy.
When a green-out is called, word goes out through e-mail and radio reports asking people to slash electricity usage.
But base officials hope people will use electricity with conservation in mind even when the base isn’t in a green-out crisis, Ridley said.
The strain on the system is worst during summer, mainly from July to mid-September, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
When a green-out is called, people in workspaces and residences are asked to turn off nonessential electricity guzzlers such as coffee makers, to wait to do laundry and to turn off unused lights and appliances.
Green-outs aren’t common; only two have been called this year, Ridley said.
“We try not to get too close but we don’t want to be premature,” he said.
In past years, many more green-outs were called, a sign that the base is becoming more energy-efficient and aware, Ridley said. But a big reason still exists for using only the power needed: Iwakuni’s electric bill is more than $7 million a year, Ridley said, so there’s always room for conservation.
It can be easy being green
Here are some tips for Iwakuni’s office workers and housing residents to cut back on electricity usage, especially during peak midday hours in the summer, according to station energy manager Petty Officer 2nd Class Gerald K. Ridley:
Turn off the coffeepot. Coffee makers guzzle electricity. Ridley recommends not using them during peak hours, turning them off when not in immediate use, and in offices, sharing coffee so each space doesn’t have its own pot left sitting and wasting electricity all day.Turn down air conditioners and clean filters. It takes more energy to cool through a dirty filter. In townhouses, people can remove and wash filters from their units. In towers, where the air is vented through ducts in the floor, residents don’t need to do anything. In barracks, filters are not reusable and must be replaced, not cleaned.Conserve at the office. In offices, use half the lights if more than one set is available and take advantage of sunlight. Turn off radios and cubicle lights during absences of more than 15 minutes and turn off monitors at night, even if the computer is left on.Flip the switch. At residences, use lights sparingly and make sure to turn off outside porch lights at bedtime and during the day.Change laundry time. Do laundry early in the morning or in the evening, because dryers are big energy users.Never prop open doors and waste air conditioning.Use efficient light bulbs. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which come in the same sizes and watts. Ridley’s office has free bulbs available. Call him at DSN 253-3227 to request bulbs. The Utility Branch Office is in Building 130B near the Safety Office, past Iron Works Gym.— Juliana Gittler