The U.S. Military Keeps Outdoing Itself with Solar

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Fort Huachuca recently announced plans for a new solar array that will provide 25% of its electricity. The installation will displace the Davis-Monathan solar plant as the military’s largest.

The U.S. military has long been one of the country’s major solar adopters. Recently, it seems to be trying to outdo itself. The largest Department of Defense solar installation was installed earlier this year at Davis-Monathan Air Force Base. At 16.4 MW, that project is expected to save the base $500,000 a year. 

But it won’t be the largest for long. The U.S. Army recently announced plans for a new solar array that will provide 25% of the electricity for Fort Huachuca. That installation will displace the Davis-Monathan installation as the military’s largest.

 

“This will be the largest solar array in the Department of Defense on a military installation,” said Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for military installations, energy and environment, in a news release.

 

Groundbreaking for the project will take place on April 25, with commercial operations starting by late this year.

 

As Fort Huachuca’s commanding general, Major Gen. Robert Ashley, said, “The project goes beyond the megawatts produced. It reflects our continued commitment to southern Arizona and energy security. The project will provide reliable access to electricity for daily operations and missions moving forward.”

 

This statement reflects the military’s ongoing concerns with energy security and climate change. As early as February 2010, the Pentagon’s primary planning document identified climate change and energy as “two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment.” The military has continued since then to pursue solar power as one solution to those issues.

 

For the military, as for anyone else, solar power can hedge against rising energy costs. But it goes beyond this. The army faces real security issues in transporting fuel, which has led to its adoption of solar at overseas bases. Even at home, solar can provide dependable, locally generated, and cost-effective energy, which makes the military’s energy supply more secure, distributed, affordable, and independent.

 

The military puts a lot of effort into making these projects happen, and they take a lot of collaboration. The Fort Huachuca Renewable Energy Project is a joint effort between the U.S. Army Energy Initiatives Task Force, Fort Huachuca, The General Services Administration, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and developer E.ON Climate and Renewables. TEP will fund, own, maintain, and operate the project under a power purchase agreement, and contract with E.ON for the design, engineering, procurement and construction. The project makes use of an existing contract between the U.S. Army and the General Services Administration, and leverages a seven-decade relationship between Fort Huachuca and Tucson Electric Power.

 

“The project establishes a new path for an innovative partnering opportunity among the U.S. Army, other federal agencies, private industry and the utility provider,” said Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability. “I applaud the significant efforts and teamwork to bring this project to fruition — and set the example for other large scale renewable energy opportunities.”

 

The U.S. Army’s Energy Initiatives Task Force is instrumental in achieving the U.S. Army’s commitment to the President of deploying 1 GW of renewable energy by 2025. The task force is currently working projects in New York and California, as well as projects in Alabama, Hawaii, and Maryland.