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, situated just south of Omaha 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.

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.

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

Offutt’s role as an installation essential to sustaining the nation’s defense 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. Offutt used to be a wholesale electricity customer and, more recently, has 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 district.

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OPPD proudly serves Offutt Air Force Base. Here, the Offutt air traffic control tower can be seen through the morning fog behind an OPPD crew’s truck.

The new USSTRATCOM headquarters, currently nearing its final stages of construction, 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, both to 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.

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OPPD’s Joe Brinkman, a line technician, works on one of the base’s substations.

Large-volume customers, especially one with such a crucial mission as Offutt’s, have unique round-the-clock power needs and, when severe weather strikes, OPPD operations staff and line technicians work alongside Air Force engineers and operations staff to rapidly restore power. The storm that struck Bellevue in June 2017 – the fourth-largest to OPPD’s service territory – 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, Carlos Lara, line technician and Joe Brinkman, line technician 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, and OPPD proudly empowers them all.

Cris Averett

About Cris Averett

Cris Averett is the Nuclear Site Communicator at OPPD’s Fort Calhoun Station, the nuclear power plant 20 miles north of Omaha. Responsible for internal and external communications at the site, Cris also works with nearby communities to help build a better understanding of nuclear energy. Whenever feasible, Cris enjoys spending time with his wife and offspring, listening to music, tinkering with toys, playing a splendid game of cribbage and serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve.

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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