Earth Day 2015: Coast Guard unit continues environmentally sustainable practices

Written by Lt. Cmdr. Dana Woodall and Lt. Erin Chlum

An aerial view of Training Center Petaluma's new waste water treatment plant. The new plant is part of the Petaluma Green initiative to bring environmentally sustainable practices to the Coast Guard base. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

An aerial view of Training Center Petaluma’s new waste water treatment plant. The new plant is part of the Petaluma Green initiative to bring environmentally sustainable practices to the Coast Guard base. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Each year, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide to serve as a reminder to commit to environmental protection initiatives. The theme for Earth Day 2015 is “Our time to lead.”

Training Center Petaluma, under the Petaluma Green program, continuously strives to be a Coast Guard leader in energy conservation and environmentally sustainable practices.

Since 2009 when the Petaluma Green program was first began, the training center has implemented even more eco-friendly initiatives.

Training Center Petaluma, which is a small city in itself, consists of 220 building, 127 family homes, a police and fire department and town center which includes a movie theatre, gym, chapel and coffee shop.

With 830 acres of rolling hills, 350 of which are leased to a local farmer, 550 employees, 450 residents and over 4,000 students each year, it is imperative that the training center continually seeks opportunities to protect our environment.

Over the years, the training center has found that small, progressive changes can make a huge difference.

Xeriscaping, an initiative implemented by Training Center Petaluma, will help reduce or eliminate water usage in some areas on the base. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Xeriscaping, an initiative implemented by Training Center Petaluma, will help reduce or eliminate water usage in some areas on the base. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The training center has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce water usage, electricity costs and waste on the base. With the use of creative xeriscaping, a means of using landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for water, the training center has seen a 20 percent reduction in water usage and saved nearly $47,000 in electricity costs since 2006.

Additional upgrades have been made across the base include the addition of energy efficient appliances and boilers for heating and domestic hot water, lighting occupancy sensors and water saving fixtures to further decrease the base’s environmental impact.

Of particular note, the base celebrated the opening of a $35 million waste water treatment plant with a ribbon cutting ceremony last month. The new plant allows base waste water to meet stricter treatment standards, improving the quality of the effluent so that it can be used for watering the on-base landscape.

By using recycled water for on-base irrigation of sports fields and select lawns, it is estimated that the training center will reduce its potable water demand by nearly 70,000 gallons per day and 20 million gallons annually.

Additionally, the base partnered with Pacific, Gas & Electric Company to identify a variety of energy conservation measures and capital improvement projects as part of a utility energy savings contract contracted by Civil Engineering Unit Oakland.

Training Center Petaluma, as part of the Petaluma Green initiative, installed both solar-powered and LED lights throughout the base to improve efficiency and reduce energy costs. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Training Center Petaluma, as part of the Petaluma Green initiative, installed both solar-powered and LED lights throughout the base to improve efficiency and reduce energy costs. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The initial phase was an investment grade audit that identified a total of 13 energy conservation measures, which included programmable thermostats, interior lighting upgrades, installation of solar power and LEDs on all outdoor lights, low flow water fixtures and a base wide energy management control system.

The upgrades, valued at close to $4 million, were implemented throughout the base over the last year with no up-front costs to the Coast Guard. The project is financed though third party investors through the utility, and paid for through energy savings of the contract over the next 10 years.

Preliminary results of this initiative indicate projected savings of more than $400,000 per year.

The “Petaluma Green” program focuses on utilizing green practices whenever possible, which includes some very unique initiatives.

With the launch of the initiative in 2009, the base installed a4-acre solar panel array that provides one megawatt of renewable power to the base. If the grass under the solar panels grows too long, the panels do not receive enough light and cannot produce power. However, cutting the grass under the array is a daunting task.

To alleviate this problem, the base acquired natural lawn mowers by entering a mutually beneficial agreement with the neighboring farm, who brings their sheep on base to eat the grass under the solar array.

Additionally, over 35 buildings on base were re-roofed with white roofing materials to reflect sunlight away and reduce the heat load which minimizes the need for air conditioning.

As part of the Petaluma Green initiative, Training Center Petaluma entered a mutually beneficial agreement with a neighboring farmer to help maintain grass beneath the solar panels on base. The training center uses the farmer's sheep as a means to ensure the panels keep a clear path and do not become blocked by overgrown grass. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

As part of the Petaluma Green initiative, Training Center Petaluma entered a mutually beneficial agreement with a neighboring farmer to help maintain grass beneath the solar panels on base. The training center uses the farmer’s sheep as a means to ensure the panels keep a clear path and do not become blocked by overgrown grass. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Finally, when upgrading the barracks and barbershop, the facilities engineering department utilized sustainable products by installing bamboo wall coverings.

Training Center Petaluma will celebrate Earth Day 2015 by conducting a variety of base renewal and clean-up projects. Throughout the year, the base has placed extra emphasis on base beautification and clean-up projects, and Earth Day will serve as an extension of these efforts.

“Our vision is to be the ‘Best Place to Live, Work and Train’; part of this vision includes our programs devoted to environmental protection and conservation,” said Capt. Charles Fosse, commanding officer of Training Center Petaluma. “Observing Earth Day places extra emphasis on preserving the environment, but it’s important for us to exercise that commitment every day. We want our dedication to protecting the environment to be evident to all who live, work, train at or visit our base.”

Moving forward, Training Center Petaluma will continue to find ways to be environmentally friendly both on base and in the local communities.

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