JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
The Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station Galley is a five-star award-winning dining facility located at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command complex and provides nearly 4,000 meals daily to students, active-duty and Reserve service members who work on base.
The facility, which is open seven days a week, uses more than 6,240 gallons of hot water per day.
The Galley uses massive amounts of energy to heat all the water. Before the implementation of a solar panel water-heating system, the Galley relied on electricity and natural gas alone to handle the task.
"Heating more than 6,000 gallons of water per day using natural gas and electric pumps alone was expensive," said Bill Bradshaw, a Johnson Controls project manager who oversaw the installation of the solar panel water-heating system on JB Charleston-Weapons Station. "The price of natural gas fluctuates and the Galley was looking for a way to reduce consumption. The solar panel heating system was put in place to utilize an alternate energy source, and so far has been a success."
Since Oct. 2010, the Galley has been using electricity, natural gas and 36 solar powered panels to heat water used for sanitation, washing dishes and cooking food.
"Solar power alone isn't enough to heat up all the water required by the Galley," Bradshaw said. "However, it provides approximately 65 percent of the energy needed to heat the water. Since the solar panels collect their power from the sun, its free energy. It also helps lower the carbon dioxide emissions by using less natural gas."
Each panel is 40 square feet and sits on top of the central energy building located next to the Galley. The solar panels collect heat from the sun and transfer the energy to two water tanks which hold more than 2,000 gallons of water, Bradshaw said.
The water in the tanks is heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit before being transferred to storage tanks in the Galley. If the thermostat in the Galley reads up to 140 degrees, the solar panels are providing all the hot water, Bradshaw said. When the sun goes down and all the hot water provided from the sun is depleted, natural gas and electric pumps take over the heating process.
"The solar panel system works best in summer months, but is designed to get the job done anytime of the year," Bradshaw said. "If it's really hot out and the sun is high in the sky, not all the panels are needed to keep the water at its set temperature. If the weather is cold and the sun isn't as strong, all 36 panels are needed."
The maximum savings of fuel from natural gas is approximately 609,777 cubic feet per year. Maximum savings of electrical power is approximately 618,629,000 British Thermal Units per year. The maximum reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is 92,566 pounds per year.
Chief Petty Officer Michael Vira, Galley food service officer, said, "(In 2010) we served more than one million meals. To find any savings of energy in the massive volume of resources needed to provide food to all these service members is a great accomplishment.
"We use water for everything; from washing hands to using steam kettles. The fact that we are also benefiting from reduced emissions is phenomenal."
The Galley was the perfect test subject for solar panel water heating systems, Bradshaw said, and there are currently future plans on adding solar power panels as an alternate source of energy to other parts of the base.
"With solar power becoming more efficient it's definitely worth saving energy and lowering emissions," Bradshaw said. "Eliminating our carbon footprint is what energy conservation is all about."