Shipmate of the Week: BMC Paul Wells

Today is Earth Day and people all across America are participating in neighborhood cleanups, service projects, educational activities and other events to show their commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. Our Shipmate of the Week epitomizes these values and is an example of how one person at a small Coast Guard unit can achieve outstanding results that make a big difference in environmental stewardship.

BMC Paul Wells

Chief Petty Officer Paul Wells stands in front of the station, which has undergone many energy saving improvements. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Belson, Coast Guard 1st District public affairs

When Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Paul Wells took command of Station Provincetown, Mass., in October 2009, one of the first orders he gave to the crew was to “shut the lights off” at night. Wells was determined to reduce energy consumption and the associated costs at the station, located at the very tip of Cape Cod, in addition to keeping the life-saving skills of his crew proficient.

“I had this [energy conservation] idea in my head before I came here,” said Wells as he recounted his preparations for taking command of the station.

Wells checks a sensor

Chief Petty Officer Paul Wells, officer-in-charge of Station Provincetown, inspects a light sensor affixed to security lighting in the station's parking lot. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Belson.

Knowing he needed to do more than just shut off the lights, his next move was to collaborate with local organizations that shared his mindset. His first stop was the Cape Light Compact whose missions include promoting local energy efficiency initiatives and green power options for residents, businesses and organizations. After realizing the energy conservation potential, CLC provided a free energy audit of the station facilities.

“We went through space by space [of the station],” said Wells about the thoroughness of the energy audit.

The findings from the audit uncovered a number of improvements that could be made inside and outside the buildings to lower energy usage and costs by 40 percent in lighting alone! The potential for energy savings qualified the station for CLC efficiency funds, which covered the costs to implement the improvements.

Motion sensors were installed throughout station facilities including office spaces, hallways, workout room, locker room, bathrooms and even the soda machines to automatically turn on and off lights. Incandescent light bulbs were replaced with longer lasting and more energy efficient LED ones. Light sensors were also fitted to security lighting in the station’s parking lot.

Sensor on a pier light

Light sensors are installed and linked to a computer system that regulates the lighting on the station’s quarter-mile long pier. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Belson.

Furthermore, stretching out from the station to the rescue boats is a quarter mile-long pier with 36 lights. Wells questioned the necessity of always having all 36 lights on at the same time.

As part of the energy efficiency improvements, sensors were fitted to the pier lights and they were linked to a computer program that controls the number of lights lit at any one time and for how long.

“We still have plenty of light for safety and security,” said Wells.

Additionally, a new electric meter was installed at the station, with the data automatically downloaded and available online every morning.

“Every day when I get in, I sit down with my coffee and see what yesterday’s energy consumption was,” said Wells. “If it’s higher than I expect, I investigate why.”

Over a 14-month period ending in November 2010, Wells said the efficiency measures had saved about 56,322 kilowatt hours in energy and $9,000. He expects to save more than $30,000 over the next four years.

Water conservation measures have also been implemented at the station such as the installation of new shower heads and faucets. Wells also recently received a $7,750 CLC grant to install new insulation in the station’s attic spaces, which will reduce heating costs and energy use.

All told the energy efficiency improvement costs, including labor and parts, were about $34,750. All of which came at no cost to the Coast Guard!

“For such a small unit I think we’re doing pretty good,” added Wells.

This post is an excerpt from a Coast Guard 1st District feature story on green initiatives. Click here to read more.

Do you know a Shipmate that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.

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