State and Utility Partnership Makes Geothermal Fly at Offutt Air Force Base
Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, like many Department of Defense installations, is in the process of substantially upgrading facilities. When faced with the need to upgrade heating and cooling systems in dormitories, it formed a partnership with its electric utility, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), and the Nebraska State Energy Office for assistance in making the best system choices.
Through extensive testing and analysis, renewable energy tapped through the use of Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP), was found to be the most cost effective alternative for three buildings providing 440,000 square feet of living space for its service personnel. GSHPs are expected to reduce energy use by 36 percent from original systems boiler and chiller fan coil systems, and use 21percent less energy than a new boiler and chiller package alternative.
The partnership was launched through a Federal Energy Management Program grant, competitively selected through the State Energy Program Special Projects processs and awarded to the Nebraska Energy Office by the US Department of Energy. Through this grant OPPD and Offutt staff worked with the design team to perform thermal conductivity tests needed to assess GSHP viability, conduct full building computer energy simulations to determine the most life cycle cost effective energy efficiency and renewable energy recommendations, and produce 35 percent complete construction documents, based on the recommendations.
The geothermal systems tap a virtually inexhaustible source of renewable energy deep beneath the ground. Because these systems move heat to and from the earth, with proper energy efficient design and installation, fossil fuel consumption for heating or cooling is dramatically reduced. Geothermal systems are not only cost-effective, but good for the environment, according to the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. These systems are also expected to have lower maintenance costs.
Sharing the Savings
The U.S. Air Force took full advantage of the effort by sharing the GSHP knowledge gained and lessons learned with government and military officials from all 18 other Air Force bases that make up the Air Combat Command.
At the time of publication the dormitory project had proceeded to the construction bid phase. Additional GSHP systems have been installed at the Offutt Chapel and the Bellevue Public Schools/Offutt AFB Welcome Center and Lied Activity Center. Offutt AFB is the largest base within the Air Combat Command and serves as an excellent model to advance the geothermal technology and demonstrate the successful partnership among the local utility, state and federal government energy agencies and the U.S. Air Force.