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Light-Control Systems Help NASA Go ‘Net Zero’

The Propellants North Administrative and Maintenance Facility at Kennedy Space Center, located in Cape Canaveral, FL, achieves net-zero energy use. To offset the costs of electricity provided by a local utility, the center powers itself with renewable resources. The new facility is NASA’s first carbonneutral one, which means it is engineered to release no greenhouse gas emissions during renovation or operation.

alt“The facility actually generates more energy than it requires in a 24-hour period,” said Frank Kline, a NASA Construction of Facilities project manager. “And our ability to do that is largely attributed to advanced lighting solutions,” adding that lighting typically consumes nearly 40 percent of a building’s energy.

More than 330 photovoltaic panels on the rooftops of the Propellants North complex use sunlight to generate energy. The buildings are also positioned on the property to maximize the flow of light into the windows, decreasing the demand for power needed for lighting the interior.

One of the broader energy-saving strategies NASA utilized to reduce the building’s power draw was to improve the use of natural light — a strategy known as daylighting. The NASA team recycled large windows and frames from the original launch control center to increase available daylight in the office areas.

The team relied on lighting-control technology to reduce the energy consumed by the artificial lights in the facility. The NASA designers needed a combination of controls in four enclosed office spaces. The walls in the office areas are largely comprised of windows, so the situation called for a wireless lighting technology with remote operating capabilities.

With direct on-site support from Lutron Electronics, the group selected a fully integrated lighting control system. EcoSystem® wireless controls allow employees who occupy glass-enclosed offices to control lighting levels wirelessly. To automatically dim lights based on available natural light, the EcoSystem digitally addressable dimming ballasts are automated to work individually or as a group.

Pico™ Wireless wall-mounted control stations use Maestro Wireless® technology and Radio Powr Savr® occupancy sensors to allow occupants in the engineering and mechanics work areas to control a specific group of lights. Large windows capture sunlight and naturally illuminate the space, allowing EcoSystem daylight sensors to dim or turn off electric lights as necessary. EcoSystem infrared occupancy sensors also turn lights off when a space is empty, and turn lights on when a person enters a space.

altThe building automation system monitors the facility’s energy use through KW meters installed in the electrical panels throughout the building. The meter associated with the lighting panel has confirmed a significant electricity cost savings from the lighting controls. “But the best result coming out of implementing the lighting controls was the transparency to the occupants. They didn’t even notice light levels automatically changing throughout the day,” Kline said. “The lighting system saves a lot of energy without requiring the occupants to put any thought or effort into helping do so.”

Other energy-efficient initiatives are in progress. For less than $1.50 per day, for example, an electric or hybrid vehicle can also be plugged into a solar-powered charging canopy. The facility’s eight-car station is used for government or personal vehicles to reduce dependency on petroleum and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Water conservation also factored into the design team’s plan. A 7,500-gallon rainwater-harvesting system supplies water to sanitary fixtures and sprinklers. By incorporating the water reclamation and storage onsite, NASA estimates the system offsets 195,000 gallons of treated water with rainwater. The system saves taxpayers the costs incurred for the treated water and eliminates the need to pump it from over 25 miles away.

The overall initiative to make the facility as energy-efficient as possible was driven by Executive Orders 13423 and 13514, which mandate federal agencies to give preference to using energy from renewable sources and environmentally preferable products in new construction and major renovations.

According to Kline, the net-zero efforts will likely continue in future NASA facilities. “I hope this is just the start,” he said.

EcoSystem® light control system
Lutron Electronics
Coopersburg, PA
800-523-9466
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