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News > AEDC reduces customer power costs by almost $5 million
AEDC reduces customer power costs by almost $5 million
The large Rocket Test Facility J-6 pictured here conducts night operations, a program in which testing takes place during the night of summer months to reduce the center's energy costs. The night ops program is now in its fourth year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rick Goodfriend)
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AEDC reduces customer power costs by almost $5 million

Posted 3/22/2011   Updated 4/20/2011 Email story   Print story


by Kathy Gattis
Arnold Engineering Development Center Public Affairs

3/22/2011 - ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Arnold Engineering Development Center averted a $4.86-million energy bill for its customers in the fall of 2010 with a program called night operations or "night ops."

As part of night ops, tests that require the most energy consumption are done during the evening and into the morning of the next day when power is cheaper and more readily available.

"It's not that we [AEDC] use less power at night to accomplish our test mission, but night ops provide a significant cost avoidance for our customers," ATA's Manager of Integrated Scheduling Branch Gary Bryant said.

AEDC's rate structure with Tennessee Valley Authority drives a higher energy cost during peak power periods or when the demand for power is the greatest.

"By keeping our large plants down during that period and moving operation to non-peak times, we can reduce the amount of money spent on power, and those savings are passed on to the customer," Mr. Bryant said.

In these tough economic times, customers have fixed budgets and savings from tests go directly into more hardware for the warfighter or more capable systems being fielded.

Another benefit of night ops is the improved availability of cooling water. With the naturally cooler raw water temperatures during the nighttime hours, equipment capabilities are improved allowing certain test conditions to be more easily attained.

A potential downside of the move to night ops is felt by AEDC employees who are involved in test and maintenance activities. Some engineers, craftsmen and support personnel are asked to temporarily change their shift work hours.

Even though there is an integrated plan in place for a smooth transition to the shift changes, ATA still wanted to monitor the impact to employees.

"Safety is always our first priority," Mr. Bryant said. "ATA does vigorous analyses to ensure that personnel and equipment safety are not compromised by the movement from a more normal first- and second-shift operation to night ops. I think [the] Beyond Zero [safety campaign] has really helped make everyone more aware of the importance of safety and reminded folks that we need to look out for each other, and that is exactly what our employees are doing. Their awareness is heightened."

No accidents or safety incidents have been connected to night ops. The program is used primarily in the Propulsion Wind Tunnel, Engine Test Facility and Von Karman test complexes because these are the areas that require the most power during testing.

"Though this scheduling change was transparent to the majority of AEDC employees, we should recognize the contributions of those test and plant operations folks that sacrificed to achieve these savings," ATA's Director of Resource Provisioning David Eldridge said. "In many cases, they worked extended hours on non-typical shifts. While you and I were asleep, they were here at AEDC conducting tests."

"Besides the fatigue brought on by unusual work hours, they had to adapt to different sleep schedules and make changes in their lifestyles to accommodate these work requirements. They remained committed to the mission and were able to maintain the high level of test proficiency AEDC is known for," Mr. Eldridge said. "I salute their efforts."

Some may wonder why AEDC doesn't use night ops throughout the year. It all goes back to the rate structure of TVA and the power fluctuations the agency must address to make sure the center has the power we need as we go home and do our normal activities.

This is the fourth year of night ops, but the first time it has netted a significant customer savings. In 2007, the first year of night ops, the savings were slightly more than $600,000.

Test workload was down in 2008 and 2009 and that, combined with summer maintenance and investment outages, resulted in only minimal savings.

AEDC also reduces its own energy bill by doing maintenance during the summer and saving energy whenever possible. Night ops is only used during the summer months, June 1-Sept. 30.

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