Air Force Featured Stories

AF wind turbine helps power missile warning radar

  • Published
  • By Kevin Elliott
  • Air Force Civil Engineer Center Public Affairs
A wind turbine at Cape Cod Air Force Station, part of Joint Base Cape Cod, Mass., is partially powering one of the largest ground-based missile warning radars in the United States.

The 6th Space Warning Squadron at Joint Base Cape Cod operates the Phased Array Warning System, named PAVE PAWS. The radar operates around the clock and has a 3,000-mile reach down the east coast and over the Atlantic Ocean.

Although its main purpose is to detect submarine-launched ballistic missiles, PAVE PAWS also tracks satellites in low-Earth orbit. To achieve this range, the radar requires massive amounts of energy, amounting to a $1.6 million annual electric bill.

"We are one of the largest energy consumers on the Cape," said Stephen Mellin, support officer for the squadron. "Most of the energy used on the site is directly related to the radar itself."

In an effort to reduce its energy intensity, the 6th SWS partnered with Air Force Space Command and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center to install two 1.68 megawatt wind turbines on the site.

"Cape Cod is a really good place to put wind turbines," Mellin said. "Our wind resources are some of the best in the country."

The energy produced by the turbines is sold directly to the local utility company and, in return, the 6th SWS receives energy credits back on its bill.

"In the first six months of operation, the project generated $668,068 in credits," said Fox Theriault, energy analyst at AFSPC. "When you look at this project and the money it is saving, the impact is huge. Projects like this help us achieve energy goals with visible savings."

The $8.5 million project was funded by the energy conservation investment program, a subset of the military construction program. ECIP was created to fund military projects that save or produce energy on military sites, thus reducing Department of Defense energy costs.

The payback period for the PAVE PAWS wind turbine is eight to10 years. The lifespan of the turbine is twice that.

"The wind turbines have a 20-year life expectancy," Mellin said. "So we're looking at half of their time up here being past the payback period."

The 6th SWS and AFSPC also worked with Cape Light Compact and the local utility company to complete a site energy audit in order to identify other energy-saving opportunities.

"We changed light bulbs from T12s to energy-efficient T8 bulbs, we put variable-frequency drives on our equipment to save energy, and even changed out the old exit signs with new LED signs," Mellin said.

"Space Command was the first in the Air Force to replace old technology parking and roadway light fixtures with new state-of-the-art LED fixtures," Theriault said.

"The 6th Space Warning Squadron was one of the recipients of these fixtures and the installation could not be happier. The fixtures have been 100-percent maintenance-free and provide much better lighting for the security personnel."

The effort has helped the 6th SWS achieve its energy goals.

"We conducted $300,000 worth of energy-efficiency upgrades that have saved more than $150,000 annually, which amounts to a two-year payback period, all at no cost to taxpayers," Theriault said.

Even with all of these successes, the 6th SWS is always looking for new ways to save energy.

"We are trying to be very proactive about energy savings, looking for whatever conservation measures we can find to do," Mellin said. "We're working prudently to save money for taxpayers."