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The U.S. Army Keeps Going Solar, as New Installation at White Sands is Biggest Yet
February 6, 2013
On just about every front, the United States military is moving toward becoming a more environmentally-conscious operation. We've covered that before, including this story by Tracey Schlemetic from last April exploring how the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) is leading the way in renewable energy through programs like ExFOB, or Experimental Forward Operating Base, which is a base containing a collection of alternative energy technologies that can be deployed quickly and operate largely independent of fossil fuels. There are signs all over the place that the Navy, Air Force and the Army are following suit, as unlike other governmental organizations, the military can go ahead and institute new policies on energy conservation without having to deal with a Congress that can't even seem to agree on where the sun rises from. A report in late January by the Pike Research group predicts that the U.S. military will quadruple its renewable energy spending by 2025, to a whopping $1.8 billion. The military will increase its renewables' capacity from the current 80 MW to 3,200 MW in the next 12 years. The Army, Navy and Air Force have previously announced set targets of 1 gigawatt of installed renewable energy capacity by 2025, and the report adds that because of the Department of Defense's use of power purchase agreements and "enhanced use leases," some military installations should be able to pay the same amount, or less, for renewable electricity as they do for retail power from the main grid. The Department of Defense currently spends around $20 billion per year on energy and uses $3.8 kWh of electricity, and you know that number will continue to go up as more and more military bases and sites turn to solar power, among other renewable energy options. Into this culture of renewable energy has come the Army's most ambitious project yet: In conjunction with the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Ala., and thanks to an Energy Savings Performance Contract, the military installation at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico has just established the largest solar power system in the U.S. Army. The new installation, officially dedicated on Jan. 16, is a collection of solar panels that covers 42 acres of land and cost $16.5 million. The large solar installation took only six months to install, being completed last December. Some other quick facts about White Sands' new energy source:
- The solar power system will reduce CO2 emissions at White Sands by 7,400 tons annually; that's equivalent to planting 188,000 trees, or removing more than 1,500 cars from the roadways.
- The solar array capacity of the new installation is 4.115 MW.
- The solar carport capacity (also part of the project): 375 kW.
- The annual energy output will be 10,400,000 kWh.
- The estimated annual savings thanks to the project: $930,010.
- Number of trackers: 774.
- Number of solar panels: 15,480.
- The amount of energy used by the new solar installation is expected to be 10 percent of the total power used by the base.