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U.S. army base responds to federal energy-efficiency imperative

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The project at Fort Bliss, which will include renewable energy and building monitoring technologies, is expected to save more than $39 million over the next 24 years.

Fort Bliss in Texas has signed a $16 million energy-efficiency project with Johnson Controls. The deal is the first I've seen to emerge under President Barack Obama's federal directive calling for the government to make more than $2 billion of improvements over the next two years in order to save money and to create jobs. President Obama's directive is part of the Better Buildings Challenge, which is encouraging more than $4 billion in energy efficiency projects across both public and private sector buildings.

The project at Fort Bliss in Texas is projected to save up to $39 million in energy costs over the next 24 years, and it is structured as a energy savings performance contract. That is, the cost of the improvements will be paid for over time with the money that is saved on electricity and other utility bills. If Johnson Controls doesn't deliver the savings, it doesn't see its money. At least that's the theory.

"We hope to be energy-efficient by 2015," said Jean Offutt, the public affairs officer for Fort Bliss Garrison. "Anything being done to support that initiative is good news for us."

The Fort Bliss project will be handled through the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Ala., which is hoping that this is the first of many similar projects. The project will include use of renewable energy created by 5,500 solar panels; Fort Bliss will obtain the power from those panels through a contract, it won't have to pay for the installation and it won't have ownership. New utility monitoring and control systems will be deployed at 120 buildings at the fort to keep tabs on reducing electricity consumption during peak demand periods. Other improvements will also be undertaken to improve the energy efficiency of certain buildings.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure