Providing power for Offutt to fly, fight, win

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Offutt Air Force Base
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb.- An WC-135W Constant Phoenix aircraft performs touch and go landing exercises. The Constant Phoenix performs worldwide air sampling and is also used for limited nuclear test ban treaty verification. U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger

Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb., has served America’s defense across three centuries. From breaking ground as Fort Crook in the late 1800s through today’s new U.S. Strategic Command headquarters, Offutt has deep roots in eastern Nebraska.

long histories

OPPD had its own beginnings near the end of World War I, around the same time Offutt saw its first aerial units take to the skies. For much of the century since, the two institutions have enjoyed a strong, storied relationship.

Offutt 03-sized
Joe Hanover, left, and Michael Rangel, both OPPD journeyman cable splicers, standing in front of the “Fightin’ 55th headquarters.

Offutt’s role as an essential defense installation means keeping reliable power flowing to the base, and its nearly 9,000 personnel, is at the very core of that relationship.

OPPD account executive Steve Sauer has worked with the Air Combat Command’s 55th Wing for 10 years. During that time, he’s fostered working relationships with a series of 55th Wing Civil Engineering Squadron leaders, as well as some of the installation’s most noteworthy tenant units, including the 557th Weather Wing (the Air Force’s primary weather agency) and USSTRATCOM (America’s strategic deterrence and response organization).

“They trust us,” said Sauer, speaking about the district’s role in delivering power to the base, and often going beyond the meter to advise on topics such as energy efficiency. “It’s an excellent relationship. They’re definitely one of our most unique customers.”

Offutt Air Force Base
A new OPPD substation located near the air base.

That relationship has evolved over the years, with the construction and retirement of multiple substations, some fully and others partially dedicated to powering the base.

changing needs

Offutt used to be a wholesale electricity customer. They’ve recently moved to a hybrid energy customer and customer delivery model. In the mid-2000s, the Department of Defense sold the majority of Offutt’s electrical distribution systems to OPPD and entered into a 50-year custom contract with the utility.

The new USSTRATCOM headquarters has driven part of the base’s demand for dedicated power. However, the base’s overall energy demand has actually seen a decrease. And that’s a success story of its own.

Sauer said Offutt has been systematically investing in upgrades to its heating and cooling systems. This allows them to both sustain reliability and increase energy efficiency. OPPD experts played a big part in that process, consulting on multiple construction and renovation projects.

“We’ve seen their demand actually drop by three to four megawatts, mainly because of efficiency efforts and the OPPD energy partnership,” he noted.

special needs
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Line technician Joe Brinkman works on one of the base’s substations.

Large-volume customers, especially one as crucial as Offutt, have unique round-the-clock power needs. When severe weather strikes, OPPD personnel work alongside Air Force engineers and operations staff to rapidly restore power.

The June 2017 storm that struck Bellevue affected large portions of the base’s energy infrastructure, and OPPD was quick to respond and help restore service.

Offutt Air Force Base
Bill Bergeron, OPPD crew leader, and line technicians Carlos Lara and Joe Brinkman remove three overhead transformers that are no longer needed near Offutt Air Force Base.

Recognizing Offutt’s unquestionable importance to the region is one reason OPPD backs the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to support the broader military community.

The people of Offutt Air Force Base, including service members from all branches of the armed forces, the civilians that work alongside them and the families that support them, are woven directly into this region’s fabric. OPPD proudly empowers them all.

Cris Averett

About Cris Averett

Cris Averett is responsible for communications at OPPD’s Fort Calhoun Station, as well as an array of communications projects across the district. Whenever feasible, Cris enjoys spending time with his wife and offspring, listening to music, tinkering with toys and playing a splendid game of cribbage.

One thought on “Providing power for Offutt to fly, fight, win”

  1. Cris: nice story on Offutt and the relationship OPPD has with the Base.
    Steve Sauer does a great job of attending to their needs. Well done.
    Tom Richards

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