Let there be light

Two helicopters sit parked in the completed section of Hangar Four, which is currently undergoing a project to replace all the lighting with more energy-conscious alternatives.

Photo by Joe Johnson

A project currently under way to install more energy-efficient lighting in Hangar Four is projected to save Naval Air Station Lemoore an estimated $140,000 a year.

Installation Energy Manager Alex Ramos said the upgrade includes swapping out the old, high-intensity discharge bulbs and replacing them with low-cost alternatives. Skylights are being constructed to make use of the Central Valley’s sunny weather and a new control system will be installed to monitor the lights remotely.

“A majority of our savings come from just being able to turn the lights off on a schedule,” Ramos said. “We can add timers which turn off the lights after, say, four hours or eight hours. Most people turn off the lights when they leave, but there are certain times when that doesn’t happen. It adds up very quick.

“Hangar bay lighting uses quite a bit of electricity. You need a lot more light in an aircraft maintenance hangar than you do in, say, an office building.”

The old lights, themselves, were part of the problem. HID bulbs are typically installed at tennis courts and football stadiums. In addition to being energy hogs, they also take anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes to warm up to full brightness.

“These lights, they’re not terrible, but they discourage people from turning them off,” Ramos said. “If you’re working in the hangar, you don’t want to run the risk of flipping the switch for fear of waiting 20 minutes for them to power up again. So people just leave them on all the time, burning electricity.”

It was also expensive to change them out. Workers would have to coordinate with the squadrons to find a time when there wouldn’t be a jet in the way. Two operators were necessary to complete the job: One to sit in the bucket truck and another to keep watch for safety hazards.

Ramos said this project has been in the works since 2011-12. It was funded by MIL-CON and the Energy Conservation Investment Program (ECIP), which also paid for the base’s recent photovoltaic array expansion.

Of course, this isn’t the first base hangar to get a lighting overhaul. Hangar One went through a similar process through the Navy Special Projects Program’s Restoration, Modernization, Energy (RMe) initiative. All the lighting there was stripped out in favor of LEDs. Lights in Hangar Five were also upgraded during a whole building renovation at the end of 2011.

“We saw positive results from the first set of projects, so we wanted to keep it going,” Ramos said.

The project is expected to finish sometime in late September or early October, depending on the schedule of the squadrons working around it. Three out of the five modules in Hangar Four have been completed so far.

“We are very excited to get this going,” Ramos said. “People from other hangars have seen it and asked when they are getting the new lights. So we know they like the results. But we also try to cause as little disturbance as possible in the process. We don’t want to interrupt the Sailors’ mission.”

In the future, Ramos also wants to complete a similar project in the Fleet Readiness Center Hangar, or Building 180.

“We always have to be planning ahead, determining which funds will be allocated in the future,” Ramos said. “We’re already looking towards projects in fiscal year 2017-18. It takes a while to figure out.”

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