Air Force To Build Three More Major Solar Installations

For nearly three years, a 14.2-megawatts (MW) solar array spanning 140 acres at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., has held the title of the largest renewable-energy project in the Air Force.

Now, Air Force engineers are set to outdo that achievement with plans to build three new solar arrays by 2013 that are as big as or bigger than the current Nellis project.

In addition to Nellis AFB, officials at Davis Monthan AFB and Luke AFB, both in Arizona, are planning expansive solar arrays.
Davis-Monthan officials awarded SunEdison (NYSE: WFR) a solar photovoltaic utility contract in September. They plan to purchase electricity from a 14.5-megawatt photovoltaic solar array to be constructed, designed, owned, operated and maintained by SunEdison on 130 acres of under-utilized base property.

Engineers expect the array to deliver 35% of the energy needed to operate base facilities.

"Several years of industry and government teamwork were required to bring this renewable-energy project to this point," said Col. John Cherrey, the 355th Fighter Wing commander. "The use of emission-free solar power to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, as well as long-term savings on electricity costs, is a great benefit to the base."

Luke officials have teamed up with Arizona Public Service Company to build a 15-MW solar array on 100 acres of under-utilized base property. The project could produce enough energy to satisfy 50% of the base’s energy needs and save up to $10 million on utility bills over 25 years, according to Lt. Col. John Thomas, the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

While Davis-Monthan AFB and Luke AFB soon could have the largest renewable-energy plants in the Air Force, with 14.5 MW and 15 MW respectively, the distinction may be short-lived. Air Combat Command and Nellis AFB leaders have plans to construct a 17-megawatt phase-two project in 2012 to add to the 14.2-megawatt array built in 2007.

"The Air Force continues to aggressively pursue cleaner sources of energy," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers who, as the Air Force Civil Engineer, is responsible for overseeing all Air Force facilities. "Sustainable installations provide an operational advantage to our force and, needless to say, we are excited by the momentum in this arena."

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