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Coast Guard Master Electrician Promotes Energy Sustainability

Lorrin Ching stands by the photovoltaic array

Imagine for a moment if you opened your monthly electric bill and saw the amount of $165,000. Well, that is what Coast Guard Base Support Unit Honolulu sees on its average monthly statement.

But, thanks to one master electrician that bill will be getting smaller and smaller.

Lorrin Ching, a work leader at the Naval Engineering Support Unit Honolulu, is setting the bar for environmental sustainability, knocking down power bills across the Pacific region and winning awards for his grass roots leadership.

Dubbed the Sustainability Champion for the 14th Coast Guard District, Ching is relied on heavily by the Coast Guard’s energy program to innovate and foster change throughout Coast Guard units in the Hawaiian Islands. Ching has taken on the challenge, actively leading the charge assisting the Coast Guard in meeting Federal Sustainability Mandates and Executive Orders as well as supporting the Coast Guard’s mission of Environmental Stewardship.

“Because of Oahu’s remote location and limited natural resources, the price of electricity is three times the national average, and is produced almost exclusively from petroleum power plants,” said Lt. Ryan Murphy, Ching’s supervisor and NESU’s industrial manager. “The need for sustainability and energy reduction has never been as important as it is right now.”

Murphy added that Ching started exploring energy saving projects and incorporating them into his every day work routine, tracking each project and detailing savings to build a reference library of sustainable initiatives for future project developments.

“What really saved us a lot of money is when we switched from the high intensity discharge light fixtures to the compact fluorescent light fixtures,” said Ching.

Ching began to aggressively pursue his green exploration efforts in 2009. Since then, his initiatives resulted in electrical savings of $97,000. This annual saving will add up to nearly $1 million over the next 10 years – but he’s not stopping there.

Lorrin Ching participates in the Coast Guard Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Expo teaching hundreds of high school students photovoltaic technology and explaining energy saving techniques.In one proposal, Ching noticed that Station Honolulu’s boathouse lighting was both inefficient and very difficult to perform maintenance on, high in the rafters and out over the water. He took it upon himself to research the problem, discovering unique solutions that reduced the energy consumption of the lighting, decreased costs and labor time for maintenance, while allowing for safer operations vice changing light bulbs from a moving skiff.

Upon approval, Ching installed the new efficient lighting system high on the interior sides of the boathouse rather than up in the rafters. Additionally, since the space is unoccupied 90% of the time, Ching installed the lighting system on two switches – one for unoccupied use and a second for active work. In all, his retrofit saves $5,500 a year, an 80% electrical savings, while providing the boathouse members much better quality light.

“Ching’s successes gained visibility within our immediate command, District 14 and even Coast Guard wide,” said Murphy. “Ching’s thorough planning and execution produces substantial positive results.”

In addition to local projects on Oahu, Ching has also travelled to the outer islands bringing his intuitive energy reduction mindset with him. He has completed energy efficiency renovations at Coast Guard Station Kauai and Station Maui to upgrade their lighting, install occupancy sensors, install programmable thermostats, and assisted the installation of more efficient air conditioners. Furthermore, Ching created several innovative ways to teach local high school students about saving energy and renewable technology.

“My field is electricity, and saving it saves money,” said Ching. “The less electricity you use, the less pollution you create,” he added. “We only have one planet and I am trying to do my part to keep it clean.”

Recently he retrofitted the front gate security lighting, installing a high powered solar LED fixture over the guard shack and removed the original 400 watt fixture from the grid. Adding to the reduced energy consumption, the solar fixture stays lit during the often routine power surges that occur on the island.

“His proactive approach should be a role model for all grass roots sustainability efforts throughout the Coast Guard,” said Murphy. “Members like Ching are essential in helping the organization reach our electrical and renewable energy goals enhancing our mission capabilities while reducing our impact on the environment.”