MCLB-Albany growing by leaps and bounds

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. -- The military community in Albany has been growing faster than most people can keep track.

And it continues to make progress.

At Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, there are a number of projects in the works -- but by far the biggest ones are the landfill gas project and the single Marine barracks.

Of the two, the barracks will likely open up first, with its occupants expected to move in during March.

The groundbreaking for the barracks took place more than a year ago, around the same time officials began the demolition process for the old barracks -- which are about as old as the installation itself.

"It was not economically feasible to keep renovating old facilities," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Benjamin, public works officer at the base.

The residential facility, which is three stories tall, will house Marines that are at E-5 or below on the pay scale. The rooms feature a restroom, a bedroom area, a kitchenette and storage areas that are secured by locks.

"For the Marines, to get a nice room boosts morale," Benjamin said. "The energy and maintenance costs are lower. Overall, it enhances the (look) of the base.

"It can tie into quality of life. It helps retention, and it helps them be proud of being in the Marine Corps."

The kitchenette, which includes a stove top and a microwave, contributes a lot to morale just by itself.

"The new barracks have the ability (for the Marines) to cook in the room, which will help them save a little money," Benjamin said.

There is also a picnic pavilion on the grounds, which have solar panels on top to allow for more efficient uses of energy. A common area on the building's first floor includes a laundry room, kitchen and recreation room with a theater, pool tables and a big-screen TV.

The barracks also have five rooms designed for those who are disabled, specifically the wounded Marines. The whole project is costing roughly $16.8 million.

As for the old barracks, there may be some that remain for the Young Marines program and overflow training, but they have essentially fulfilled their purpose.

"For the most part, we will demolish them," Benjamin said.

There have been close to 80 people working to build the barracks. Once it opens, there could potentially be opportunities for custodial or maintenance positions to open up. The usage of green technology at the barracks will also likely change some skill sets at the base.

"A base with new facilities helps with sustainability," Benjamin said. "Anytime you can provide a facility like this for the Marine Corps, it is a good thing.

"It will be a very good feeling to see the Marines move in."

The presence of solar panels will result in an energy savings of 40 percent, officials say.

Once the landfill gas project is up and running, it is expected to greatly exceed the congressional renewable energy mandate of 7.5 percent by 2013. Just over 19 percent will be reachable, with electric renewable energy doubled if the energy is produced and used on-site.

"It is good for the Marine Corps, good for the community and good for the nation," said Eddie Hunt, energy manager at the base.

"We're lucky we got a project across the street and are able to use it."

In December 2009, the Marine base entered into a 20-year partnership with Dougherty County allowing the county to sell landfill gas produced at the Fleming/Gaissert Road landfill to the installation. The gas will be used to operate a 1.9-megawatt combined heat and power generator for MCLB.

"It's a great relationship between us and the county," Hunt said. "It gives them (the county) a money stream they don't have, and it gives us a partnership."

At around the same time, MCLB entered into a 22-year contract with Chevron Energy Solutions for Chevron to develop, design and maintain the project. Through an energy savings performance contract, Chevron arranged the financing for the project -- which will be repaid through energy savings.

"It's hard to find renewable energy that will pay for itself," Hunt said.

About $16 million is being used to build the project. Officials expect an energy savings of $1.5 million a year.

In addition to generating electricity, heat will be recovered off the engine stack and jacket to produce 95 pounds per square inch of steam in a heat recovery steam generator. The heat from the jacket will be available for use in various industrial processes at Maintenance Center Albany.

"We will save gas because we are using waste for steam heat," Hunt said.

The county will be responsible for extracting the gas from the landfill to the base's processing equipment. The installation will be responsible for the processing, compression and transmission of the landfill gas to the base.

The landfill receives approximately 100,000 tons of municipal solid waste per year. Biological decomposition of the solid waste generates landfill gas, of which the primary component is methane.

The project will also allow the base to utilize landfill gas to produce electricity on-site, which will offset the purchase of electricity as well as generate natural gas for steam production.

In the event of a power outage, the generator will provide electricity to MCA's critical loads.

"It gives energy security," Hunt said. "We don't have to worry if Georgia Power goes out. (MCA) can use this to have emergency power."

Construction of the compression unit, pipeline and generator facility began in May 2010. After construction is completed in March, testing will be done on the generator before the switch is finally turned on sometime in May.

"We are going good," Hunt said of the construction's progress. "We are right on schedule."

Currently, there are more than 420 landfill gas projects operating in the United States. The one at the Marine base here will be the first of its kind in the Corps. Once the facility is functioning, it will create at least two more jobs -- one for a daytime operator and another so that someone is watching over it at night.

"We're excited," Hunt said. "Chevron has been great to work with, and I can't wait to turn the generator on."