US Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center

Corps of Engineers builds largest induction solar wall in the country

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District
Published April 22, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, working with the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), awarded Multiple Award Task Order Contracts (MATOC) to a group of 22 qualified solar technology contractors. Solar energy, like the 55,263 square foot solar wall installed on the Defense Logistics Agency’s Eastern Distribution Center in New Cumberland, Pa., was the second of four technologies awarded under the $7 billion Renewable and Alternative Energy Power Production for DOD Installations MATOC.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, working with the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), awarded Multiple Award Task Order Contracts (MATOC) to a group of 22 qualified solar technology contractors. Solar energy, like the 55,263 square foot solar wall installed on the Defense Logistics Agency’s Eastern Distribution Center in New Cumberland, Pa., was the second of four technologies awarded under the $7 billion Renewable and Alternative Energy Power Production for DOD Installations MATOC.

As the sun beats down on one of biggest buildings in the country, solar thermal collectors go to work providing enough heat for a 1.7 million square foot warehouse.

Spread across more than 40 acres, the Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA) Eastern Distribution Center in New Cumberland, Pa., provides critical supplies for the military stationed overseas. DLA needed an alternative, cost-saving way to provide heat for this massive warehouse.

In the summer of 2011, Headquarters U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approached the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville about an Energy Conservation Investment Program energy reducing project. Huntsville Center teamed up with the Corps’ Baltimore District to build the largest induction solar wall in the country.

“The project installed Solar Thermal Collectors on portions of the East and South walls for a total of 55,263 square feet of solar wall,” said Dennis Lacy, Huntsville Center project manager. “This system provides preheated outside air to air handling units and the large fans located inside the warehouse.”

Lacy compared the solar wall to layered clothing on the skin of the building. “The air gets in, and the sun warms it, providing heated air for the building’s use,” he said.

This two-phased solar wall contains a bottom portion of normal solar wall with a top portion that seals the air intakes.

“The bottom portion lets the air in,” Lacy said. “The heated air rises and goes up to the top half, which is sealed off with a membrane to cover the perforations. The membrane considerably assists the outside air to only entering the system at the bottom section of the solar wall, providing additional insulation to the top half of the solar wall.”

When the wall reaches 180 degrees, the dampers at the top portion open up to allow the heat to enter the warehouse, where large fans are strategically placed to circulate the heat evenly. In the summer, DLA will close the dampers to prevent unnecessary heat in the warehouse.

“It could be 27 degrees outside, but the sun beating on the wall will still heat it up to 180 degrees,” said Curt Ellsworth, Baltimore District construction representative.

It is estimated that this solar wall will save DLA $350,000 in annual energy costs.

“The PDT determined the location on the walls the solar wall should be placed to provide the best return on investment for the longest amount of winter sun exposure,” Lacy said. “Prior to construction the contractor developed an estimated baseline of energy usage for a one year period. The contractor will also provide a measurement and verification report showing the energy savings for a typical year resulting from the installation of the solar wall.”

Remi Bollana, Baltimore District’s Harrisburg Area Office resident engineer, said he looks forward to seeing the results from the measurement and verification test.

“The test will show us how much fuel DLA can expect to save each year. and those funds can be re-allocated toward other programs,” Bollana said.

This $3.4 million project took less than a year to build. Lacy attests this success to the teamwork between Huntsville Center, Baltimore District, DLA and the contractor staff.

“Huntsville Center worked closely with Baltimore's Harrisburg Area Office and the customer in developing the scope, awarding the project, design reviews, and managing the construction of the project,” Lacy said. “The Project Delivery Team always had great cohesion, actually creating a great friendship with British Exchange Officer Capt. Matthew Fry. He was my eyes and ears on the ground.”

After Capt. Fry rotated out of the Harrisburg Area Office, Mike Notto took over the responsibilities as the project engineer and brought the project to completion, said Bollana.

“We worked very well with Huntsville's project manager, Dennis Lacy,” Bollana said. “We had a mutual goal to successfully complete this contract, and we achieved it through cooperation and communication.