Volume 46, Issue 2 - March 2011


A Glazier’s Take on Solar Thermal
A Look at Fort Bragg’s Renewable Energy Initiative
by Mary Pence

President Obama’s recent unveiling of a five-point Better Buildings Initiative (see page 16) is a reflection of a similar set of programs already being implemented throughout the government and military. The Army Renewable Energy Initiative encompasses all Army efforts to adopt technologies and capabilities that will help promote and facilitate renewable energy. Since 2008, the Army has required new construction and major renovation projects at permanent active Army installations, Army Reserve Centers, Army National Guard Facilities and Armed Forces Reserve Centers to attain green building certification of at least LEED Silver. Starting in 2013, all new buildings on military installations must be LEED Silver-certified.

Fort Bragg, the North Carolina home of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Special Forces Green Berets, chose to get a head start, and has been experimenting with different types of solar energy projects in order to meet this goal. A recent example is the new Community Emergency Services Station, a designated LEED Platinum building that uses geothermal energy, or the temperature underground, to heat and cool the interior.

It’s not the type of solar application that most glazing contractors first think of, but the project’s general contractor decided to work with a company better known as a glazing contractor when it came time to install.

“Compared to BIPV, where solar panels are directly integrated into the glass of a building envelope, solar thermal systems may not be a ‘typical’ installation project for a commercial glazing company but, as this case study shows, the prerequisites for a successful outcome—key industry principles of engineering expertise, quality control, safety and project management apply to solar projects the same way they apply to a commercial glazing project,” says Tom Trainor, president of Trainor Glass. “With any solar array, you are essentially taking a glass product and installing it within some type of support structure. Commercial glaziers install glass panels into aluminum or steel mounting frames—the same materials used in solar systems. Glazing contractors are the obvious choice for that type of work.”

Setting the Stage for Savings
Trainor Solar was contracted by Archer Western Contractors, the GC, to engineer, furnish and install two solar thermal systems for Fort Bragg, as detailed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

This project featured two identical systems, including 21 Schüco Premium LA Flat Plate Solar Collection panels—tempered glass framed panels that transfer absorbed solar heat to a storage tank, in this case a 700-plus-gallon water tank manufactured by Reco USA. The sun’s energy heats a liquid in the solar collector. That heat is then exchanged in the storage tank which warms the water. During the evening, or on cloudy days, the solar system pump is shut off, triggered by a temperature setting. During that time the buildings will rely on the primary heating system.

Trainor initiated an annual system performance simulation and presented the following findings as part of its proposal for the project. The numbers shown are per individual thermal system:
• Natural gas savings per system: 11,592.5 cubic yards,
• CO2 emissions avoided per system: 41,319.86 pounds,
• Fractional Energy Savings (EN 12976): 36.8 percent, and
• System Efficiency: 64.7 percent.

Facing the Challenges
One of the challenges encountered early in the project was the tight security due to the nature and location of the facility. The solar team was required to pass through and clear all security checkpoints on a daily basis.

The second challenge soon followed. The second challenge soon followed. The Army Corps of Engineers specified which mechanical rooms were to house the water tanks. Typically a solar thermal system can have only 16 collection panels per single tank. The Corps specified 21 panels per building, necessitating a custom designed tank. Reco USA required a 12- to 13-week lead time to manufacture the custom tanks. Once the tanks were delivered to the site, the solar team had to safely maneuver the massive tanks into the building, and then hoist them upright, with barely inches to spare. If any part or piece of the tank was damaged in any way, it would automatically void the warranty.

Trainor also was actively engaged in the design process due to contradictions between the specifications and the drawings. This is a common problem within the solar industry, due in part to the fact that it’s relatively new and growing. Our company was able to offer a proactive solution by implementing very thorough “scope of work” reviews prior to any contractual agreement.

A final challenge for the Fort Bragg installation was project management and the need to work collaboratively with the many trades involved, including mechanical crews, plumbing contractors, fire/sprinkler contractors, grading/landscaping contractors, the general contractor and the brick and stone masons.

Fort Bragg has set itself apart by incorporating green technology into everyday military life. Future plans include finding more opportunities to implement the use of alternative energy.

Mary Pence is the national marketing and creative director for Trainor Glass Co. Ms. Pence’s opinions are solely her own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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