Wednesday, June 19, 2024

RNZAF base makes switch to cleaner heating

Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Ohakea will quietly pass a historic milestone this winter when, as the temperatures drop, no one will have to fire up the decades-old natural gas-fired boiler central heating system.

For the first time, the Manawatū air base will rely on clean electric heating instead of the fossil fuel central heating system of a large boiler (pictured) suppling hundreds of metres of steel water pipes around the base, which fed underfloor heating and radiator heaters throughout hangars, offices, the fire station and barracks.

RNZAF Base Ohakea, where the average winter low is 7°C (and the forecast minimum for World Environment Day on Wednesday is 4°C), opened in 1939 and in the early days it was heated by a coal-fired boiler which fed the heating pipes. The system was converted to natural gas in the 1980s.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) carried out a feasibility study in 2016 to look at replacing the boiler, including work funded by the Energy, Efficiency & Conservation Authority, and over the last few years has been steadily converting Ohakea’s buildings to clean electric heating.

“Not turning on the central boiler is a very significant milestone for both Ohakea and the NZDF,” said Mark Brunton, Head of Defence Estate & Infrastructure.

“Not only does this reduce the base’s reliance on gas, which generates more carbon emissions than electricity, it also provides more security of supply for heating.”

In 2020, the Government introduced the Carbon Neutral Government Programme (CNGP) that requires all government agencies, including the NZDF, to aim for carbon neutrality by 2025. 

Moving faster to complete the decommissioning of the gas-fired central boiler at RNZAF Base Ohakea was an early initiative in NZDF’s journey to a greener future.

A Measure & Verification Report in May 2024 confirmed the project has resulted in the base achieving a 33% reduction in natural gas consumption, offset by a 12% increase in electricity consumption, but resulting in an overall reduction in annual carbon emissions of 270 tonnes of COequivalent.

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