Beale selected as test base for AMRS: Advanced meters measure utilities

A contract awarded Sept. 5, 2012 will provide hardware and software
to 40 installations so that utility meters such as this one at Vandenberg
AFB, Calif., report standardized data wirelessly. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force is set to begin testing a standardized advanced meter reading system which will manage utility data and provide critical information required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The AMRS will save the Air Force at least $25 million a year in utility costs, and provide energy staffs information needed to ensure buildings are operating as efficiently as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- When it comes to energy, the old axiom is true: "If you don't measure it, you can't improve it." That's why the Air Force is adding high-tech metering systems at 80 installations, starting with Beale as a model, to measure utilities.

A $14.2 million contract was awarded in July to Benchmark Construction Inc. (the prime contractor), teamed with TolTest, Inc., to provide a standardized advanced meter reading system at 40 installations.

"We are excited to be the test base for such a significant project," said Robert McBride, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron base energy manager. "We want to see this work to save funding through usable data."

Along with Beale, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., will be one of the first to receive AMRS. Work began in September and is scheduled for completion in December.

The Air Force plans to award the remaining 40 next year. A combination of Wonderware and Itron software will be used as the foundation of the advanced meter reading system. The AMRS will manage utility data and provide critical information required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The award comes after several years of research and effort by engineers at the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and the Air Force Civil Engineering Resource Division, Information Technology Branch, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., in partnership with the General Services Administration.

"This AMRS award is a major step in providing a powerful energy-saving capability to base energy managers," said Ken Walters, Conservation Branch chief at AFCESA. "It also sets the stage for future integration with other systems."

The AMRS will be standardized across all 80 installations, using one of two configurations - energy management control systems or wireless communication. Holloman and Beale will serve as test bases for deploying the AMRS.

"We have a very extensive energy system here and would like it to be more usable for not just Beale personnel, but Air Combat Command personnel as well," McBride said. "AMRS will allow Beale to provide much more data to higher headquarters."

The five-year contract includes design, installation of hardware and software, training, technical support, and system sustainment. Walters says the AMRS may save the Air Force up to $25 million a year in utility costs, and provide energy staffs the information needed to ensure buildings are operating as efficiently as possible.

The AMRS is not only capable of measuring energy consumption, but also provides near real-time utility information, identifies anomalies, flags buildings that are performing out of normal range, and forecasts future consumption-- all while eliminating the need to send someone out to read a meter.

The AMRS can be customized with base specific charts, graphs and gauges with real-time and historical meter data, and can provide reports, facility baselines and mock bills. The system can normalize for weather and collect stored data during a communication outage.

"For example, if a lightning strike causes a communication outage for an extended period of time, the AMRS has the ability to estimate the missing information, temporarily eliminating the data voids in your report," said Mike Ringenberg, AFCESA's meter program lead. "Once communication is restored, it can download stored data from the meter and overwrite the estimate if necessary. This feature significantly improves the quality of the data."

(Portions of this article were contributed by Jennifer Elmore, Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency and Tinker Public Affairs)