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Back to EurekAlert! A Service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

 

On ALERT for energy savings

Looking for ways to save energy? Sometimes the best opportunities are just waiting to be uncovered.

"The idea isn't to make people stop doing something to save energy," said Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Bill Sandusky, who manages the Laboratory's activities for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Federal Energy Management Programs (FEMP). "The idea is to find things that can be fixed quickly and easily. Maybe a building is being heated or cooled longer than necessary or the lights are on when no one is there."

In early 2001, Pacific Northwest's Michael Kintner-Meyer developed the concept for the program later identified as ALERT—Assessment of Load and Energy Reduction Techniques. His idea was to conduct assessments of federal facilities to identify and implement low-cost or no-cost measures to reduce energy demand and consumption when California's energy system is at its peak, minimizing the potential for blackouts.

While the emphasis is on high-impact measures that can be taken in a matter of days, the assessments identify additional energy-saving options, such as installing more efficient lighting or distributed energy systems. The assessment gives facility managers the key information they need to submit an application for funding under California's Public Benefit Program.

FEMP adopted the ALERT program recommended by the Laboratory for rapid deployment just months before the President issued his directive to reduce peak consumption at federal facilities by 10 percent during summer 2001.

Sandusky and his colleagues formulated the assessment protocols, which primarily relate to re-tuning the operation of the building's heating, air-conditioning and ventilation equipment. Before bringing them to California, however, they ran pilot tests at ten facilities in Washington and Oregon.

In March, the first ALERT team headed to the Marine Corps Air Station at Camp Pendleton in California. According to the team's report, the assessment identified several opportunities that would reduce the facility's electric load during the summer peak by an estimated 7 percent or 233 kilowatts. The team's recommended actions also could reduce annual energy consumption by about 23 percent, saving nearly $300,000 annually.

While Pacific Northwest staff participated on many ALERT teams, they also trained other national laboratories to conduct the two-day assessments. In two months, the teams covered 25 federal facilities in California.

Sandusky said that he expects Washington state and the Northeast to be part of next year's ALERT focus.

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