Disney Training Center first “net-zero” site for Kentucky Guard

Story and Photos by Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

120607-A-GN092-097

Sgt. Joseph Mattingly of Charlie Co., 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation walks between barrack buildings at the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky., June 7, 2012. Solar panels installed on the buildings at the center are responsible for producing all the energy needed to power the buildings for use by units training at the site. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond/Released)

ARTEMUS, Ky. — Nestled in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, an array of blue, glass-like panel covered buildings sparkle in the afternoon sun.  And the more the sun shines, the greater the benefit to the area.  The panels harness the power of the sun and produce electricity for the Kentucky National Guard’s Harold L. Disney Training Center.

Located near Barbourville, Ky., the buildings at the site are unique and may even be considered an oddity as they sit in the middle of Kentucky’s coal country.  But the 851 solar panels at the training center represent a positive impact the Guard is making for the Commonwealth and the environment.

The 550-plus acre training center is the first of its kind in the Kentucky National Guard to become a net-zero site.  The term “net-zero” means that more energy is produced at a site than the site uses to sustain itself.   Daily electrical operation of the Disney Training Center now comes from the skyward facing panels.

Along with the reduction of energy used, there is also a financial advantage for Kentucky.  Capt. Joseph Sloan, Designs and Programs Manager for the Kentucky National Guard said the energy production could produce a surplus of energy, giving the Guard a credit toward their monthly energy costs.

120607-A-GN092-045

Aerial view of solar panels installed on the buildings of the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky, June 7, 2012. The solar panel installation has effectively reduced the site’s energy usage to net-zero, meaning the site produces more energy than it uses. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond/Released)

“We’re managing the budget, so this helps supplement the utility bill,” said Sloan. “But it’s also the right thing to do for the environment.  It’s the responsible thing to do.”

According to the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., Kentucky currently ranks first in the entire National Guard in energy reduction, and third in energy production.

Sloan said this achievement is not only because of the solar panel installation, but also in conjunction with an ongoing “energy audit”.  Sloan and his office conduct this review in all armories and training sites in Kentucky.

“Everywhere, we’re checking windows, lighting, insulation and improving what we can, based on balancing the need and getting the greatest bang for the buck,” he said.

The usage of Disney Training Center dictated more buildings, and an opportunity for solar energy installation presented itself according to Sloan.  Last year, for example, site officials said they accommodated more than 15,000 Soldiers, police officers, boy scouts and athletic teams for training.

Soldiers with Kentucky’s 201st Engineer Battalion constructed the buildings and the Guard partnered with Third Sun Solar, an Athens, Ohio based clean energy company, to install the panels.

Sloan said plans for more of the energy-absorbing panels are in the works, spreading the benefits through different regions of Kentucky.  Installation is currently scheduled for the newest readiness centers, one recently completed in Owensboro, and the future site in Burlington, in Northern Kentucky. Work to add more panels also continues at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville.

The solar panel additions will continue the Kentucky Guard’s effort to shrink its environmental footprint across the Commonwealth.

The Kentucky National Guard’s progress in solar energy recently attracted the attention of the international publication, Photon Magazine, who sent representatives to visit the state in June.  Matthew Hirsch, associate editor with the San Francisco based magazine said the visit was part of a monthly series called PV (photovoltaic) Coast to Coast.  Hirsch said the visit to the Bluegrass was enjoyable and a nice entry to their documentation of the solar market.

120607-A-GN092-121

Sgt. 1st Class Chaz Martin, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Harold L. Disney Training Center discusses solar panel installation at the site in Artemus, Ky., with a representative of Photon Magazine, June 7, 2012. Photon Magazine visited areas in Kentucky to collect information on solar energy efforts in the Commonwealth. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond/Released)

“Our trip has been great,” he said.  “We have met a lot of people here that are passionate, knowledgeable and interacting in growing solar energy.”

The fact that the Disney Center was the first net-zero site comes with some bragging rights in the Guard, but also the beginning of a consistency of clean energy used by Kentucky’s Citizen-Soldiers.

“This showcases us here in Artemus,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chaz Martin, non-commissioned officer in charge of training at the center. “National media even get to see that we are part of the Guard team here in Kentucky. We’re going green, saving energy and not costing the government as much.”

“This is a beautiful location, a place Soldiers have been coming to get their training since 1979,” said Martin. “And now that we are net-zero, we’re making that much bigger of an impact on the Kentucky Guard.”

About kentuckyguard