YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Diesel-fueled boiler plants hum at different locations throughout Yokosuka Naval Base, generating the electricity that keeps the facility running.

But one of those plants — perhaps the big one by the barracks — should fall silent soon. A new cogeneration power plant, which recaptures heat from natural-gas engines to create steam, may render it unnecessary.

The new $90 million plant is the first overseas to tap into the Energy Savings Performance Contract program, or ESPC. The congressional initiative allows private contractors, with government financing over a period of time, to install energy conservation measures in federal buildings.

The trick: “The project must pay for itself in energy savings … otherwise there’s no project, at least under the ESPC,” said Cmdr. Rob Ganowski, commanding officer of Yokosuka’s Navy Facilities Far East.

ESPC has been used stateside since 1995 but only recently was approved for use in U.S. facilities overseas, Ganowski said.

“We’ve been trying to build a cogeneration plant for years so we jumped on the opportunity,” he said.

ESPC projects can be large — like Yokosuka’s power plant — or small-scale, like changing a building’s lighting or heating and cooling systems.

In this case, Noresco, a large U.S. institutional energy builder, will build the power plant on Yokosuka’s waterfront on land now occupied by Skateland and the NEX Depot, which are to demolished in July.

The plant still is being designed but will save an estimated 600 billion British thermal units, BTUs, in energy to run, plus cut carbon dioxide emissions by 67,000 tons, Ganowski said. A BTU is the heat energy needed to raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

The new plant will generate both electricity — an additional 24.5 megawatts of 60-hertz power for ship service, 14.5 megawatts of 50-hertz power for shore facilities — and 109,000 pounds per hour of steam from natural gas turbine engines.

Although much of the shore power comes from town facilities, a squeeze usually is felt in the summer when ships are in port running air conditioning, Ganowski said. The new plant should alleviate this, he said.

The plant is not being built strictly for the new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier bound for Yokosuka in 2008, Ganowski said. Although the carrier may use the power, the plant’s construction is strictly tied to the ESPC, he said.

“It appears coincidental,” Ganowski said. “But it’s a general project for the entire base.”

And it may not be the last.

“There is a strong potential that other bases, including Yokosuka, will get more energy surveys done for potential projects,” Ganowski said. “Saving energy could be as simple as replacing windows.”

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