Energy-efficient California Marine base works to end national blackouts

World Today

A Marine base in California is leading a push toward energy conservation and self-reliance. The changes have been underway since a series of blackouts struck the state 14 years ago.  CCTV’s Yakenda McGahee reported the story from Mojave Desert, California.

Large parts of Detroit, Michigan were in the dark on Tuesday following a massive power outage after a cable and circuit breaker apparently failed, leading to rolling blackouts throughout the city. Hospitals, schools, and courthouses lost power.

The U.S. military, which relies on power generated by utilities, has become increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of electrical grids to hackers, terrorists, and natural disasters. Those worries increased after assailants last year attacked a Silicon Valley electrical substation in California, disabling a dozen transformers.

Energy efficient marine base in California works to end national blackouts

A Marine base in California is leading a push toward energy conservation and self-reliance. The changes have been underway ever since a series of blackouts struck the state 14 years ago. CCTV's Yakenda McGahee reported the story from Mojave Desert, California.

One base hopes to soon operate independent-of-the-commercial grid: 29 Palms Marine Corps Base in California’s Mojave Desert.

“The base is on the grid. But if the grid does fail, we can actually bring those power sources online and power the base,” 29 Palms energy manager Gary Morrissett said.

The California energy crisis in 2000 was the jolt this base needed to power change.

“There was a big movement to conserve energy. One of our first projects, we put in a 7.2 megawatt co-generation facility,” Morrissett said. “So at that point we generate about 50 to 60 percent of our own electricity and that’s basically where the start of our energy reduction began.”

The desert landscape is now dotted with 5,000 solar panels. Just about everywhere you look and go, there is some sort of renewable or alternative energy source on the base. A jogging path, for instance, is lined with 2.4 kilometers of solar street lights. There are 500 of them base wide. They store the sun’s energy by day and light the walkways by night.

The base is also reducing waste by re-claiming and re-using water, curtailing consumption by installing motion lights, and not only generating 16.2 megawatts of power, but storing it to heat and cool its facilities.

“We put in large chilled water plants which are about 30 percent more efficient than those air-cooled units,” Morrissett said. “Co-generation also saves energy by collecting the waste heat off of the generation side and instead of us having to run boilers to supply heat.”

Officials at 29 Palms said the upgrades save $11 million a year.