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More power, lower cost, 374th CE updates base power grid

Contractors work on a natural gas-powered steam plant

U.S. Air Force contractors continue work on a natural gas-powered steam plant at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 26, 2021. The new steam plant will generate approximately 10 megawatts of electricity, giving the base operational autonomy and reduce the electrical burden on the Japanese local Tama power grid. (Courtesy photo)

contractors work on a natural gas-powered steam plant’s electrical switchyard

U.S. Air Force contractors continue work on a natural gas-powered steam plant’s electrical switchyard at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 6, 2021. The new steam plant will generate approximately 10 megawatts of electricity, giving the base operational autonomy and reduce the electrical burden on the Japanese local Tama power grid. (Courtesy photo)

contractor works on wiring running across a facility’s ceiling fixtures

A U.S. Air Force contractor works on wiring running across a facility’s ceiling fixtures at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 9, 2021. Schneider Electric and Yokota agreed on an Energy Saving Performance Contract to upgrade the base’s electric and water systems to reduce usage by up to 30%. (Courtesy photo)

contractor works on installing a water saving fixture in a residence

A U.S. Air Force contractor works on installing a water saving fixture in a residence at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Mar. 15, 2021. Schneider Electric and Yokota agreed on an Energy Saving Performance Contract to upgrade the base’s electric and water systems to reduce usage by up to 30%. (Courtesy photo)

A contractor uses a voltmeter

A U.S. Air Force contractor uses a voltmeter to test the amount of electrical current going through wires at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Jan. 15, 2021. Schneider Electric and Yokota agreed on an Energy Saving Performance Contract to upgrade the base’s electric and water systems to reduce usage by up to 30%. (Courtesy photo)

contractors install energy efficient fixtures and light bulbs in an office

U.S. Air Force contractors install energy efficient fixtures and light bulbs in an office at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Jan. 4, 2021. Schneider Electric and Yokota agreed on an Energy Saving Performance Contract to upgrade the base’s electric and water systems to reduce usage by up to 30%. (Courtesy photo)

A digitally networked thermostat

A photo of a digitally networked thermostat in a residential unit at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 9, 2021. Yokota’s new Environmental Control System Hub will enable energy savings by remotely turning off systems when not in use. (Courtesy photo)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --

Power comes at a cost.

The 374th Civil Engineer Squadron is striving to save Yokota Air Base approximately $20 million annually by upgrading Yokota Air Base’s power grid, a sprawling infrastructure project that aims to increase energy efficiency up to 30% and simultaneously improve operational readiness.

For the U.S. Air Force to fulfil its critical, globe-spanning ‘airpower anytime, anywhere’ mission, it has to power all parts of that effort, from the fuel enabling aircraft to fly, to the electricity running the air conditioners in Airmen’s homes; that power must be ready to deliver on demand.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S Department of Defense recognize the high demand for power on military installations and formed the Energy Saving Initiative to combat the rising cost of energy and the negative environmental impact generating power can have.

“The ESI is a U.S Air Force wide effort to save energy costs via the use of Energy Saving Performance Contracts or ESPCs,” said Jackens Eugene, 374th CES installation energy manager. “Yokota, like other bases, has to maintain an annual commitment to reduce facility and housing energy use, as well as implementing energy efficiency measures to help meet renewable energy use requirements.”

The ESI commitment to reducing military installation energy consumption originally started in 1985, and eventually developed ESPCs in an effort to expedite significant power reductions on installations by 2030.

Congressional funding isn’t necessary for projects using ESPCs, giving bases the ability to start on projects more quickly while saving congressional funds for other mission priorities.

“The project cost is about $165 million, but we don’t pay for these improvements, the contractor does,” said George Matusak, 374th CES portfolio optimization chief. “Yokota has made an ESPC with Schneider Electric to do the work, but they’re compensated by receiving a portion of the money they save us over the next 20 years, so it’s in their best interest to save us as much as possible. Everybody benefits in this deal.”

Yokota’s ESPC dominantly features a new power generation plant that will help the base reduce dependency on the Japanese local Tama power grid and have more autonomy in emergency situations.

“A major reason why we’re doing this is the big tsunami near here in 2011, where the Tama power grid had to choose where to provide power,” Eugene said. “The new power plant would enable mission continuation at Yokota Air Base, and give back 10 megawatts to the local Tama power grid to use where it needs it most. This is a big thing for everyone here.”

Alongside the plant will be a ‘smart grid’ control system that will help regulate power usage across the base, allowing the control center to deactivate systems when not being used. New light fixtures, modern appliances, updated heating and cooling systems, maintaining pipes, wiring and more will all see some attention to increase efficacy.

“The best improvements are the ones people don’t realize are there, such as efficient light bulbs and water saving fixtures,” Matusak said. “If nobody is in a facility overnight, why is the air conditioner and lights on? The smart grid and environmental control systems help us put power where and when we need it, but it also provides great energy savings. The more we save, the less waste we’re putting into the environment.”

Construction at Yokota is projected to be completed in early 2023, and is predicted to annually save approximately 75,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and 30 million gallons of water. In all, the base will gain an additional 10 megawatts of power for critical readiness capabilities, environmentally friendly facilities and large money savings.

“The ESPC is a program that enables us to get after work we wouldn’t be otherwise be able to, with the end result being good for the Air Force mission, base personnel and the environment overall,” Matusak said.