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CES saves energy, money with solar paneled roof

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Laughlin's 47th Civil Engineer Squadron recently has completed a two building roof overhaul that replaced an existing weather torn roof with a new thermoplastic elastomeric roof system featuring an additional 500 solar panels to conserve energy.

Buildings 255 and 256, better known as the enlisted dormitories, suffered damage during a storm in 2006. Although the roof was repaired, the old roof system would leak during periods of heavy rain and caused varying degrees of damage to more than 40 rooms.

"The existing roof system was built in the early 1980s and has out lived its life expectancy," said Kit Lui, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron project manager. "There has been a long string of work orders to correct damage caused by the leaks. Moisture inside the building can produce an environment for the development of mold and mildew."

The renovation began in December 2011 and each building took about three-and-a-half months to be completed.

While the roof was a necessity and needed to be replaced, the civil engineer squadron here decided to maximize the benefits of this project by utilizing the thermoplastic elastomeric roof to help reach goals of a cost conscious and energy reducing culture.

"The white roof membrane provides exceptional resistance to heat, solar ultra-violate rays, ozone and oxidation," Lui said. "The solar panels are lightweight, highly wind resistant and installed without roof penetrations."

He noted how three solar panels are set on one rack. The racks are welded to the rooftop's membrane with each solar panel tied into its own micro-inverter.

"All micro-inverters then connect to a new electrical sub-panel that ties into the facility electrical panel," he said. "Energy captured by the solar panels are used to help power the facility. Any excess energy is sent to the Laughlin grid."

Lui explained that the solar panels for both buildings would generate an estimated 155,751 kilowatt-hours per year. He also noted that the base pays approximately 11.6 cents per kilowatt, which would amount to a savings of $18,078 per year in electricity costs and is the equivalent of removing almost 117 tons of carbon dioxide each year.

"With these new roofs, we have not only safeguarded our airmen; we have continued Laughlin's role as one of the Air Force's renewable energy vanguards," said Ben Graf, 47th CES program flight chief.

This initiative supports presidential executive orders to reduce electrical consumption by three percent annually or 30 percent total by 2015.