U.S. military installations in New Jersey are going solar thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is building carport-style solar arrays the size of football fields over parking lots at two New Jersey National Guard buildings. Once completed, the two solar arrays will generate almost 480 kilowatts. One building will get 40% of its summertime energy needs from its solar parking lot, another will get 80%. Together they will save the Guard about $466,000. Even better, by building two of the first solar parking lots in New Jersey, the Guard has set the stage for transforming the state’s vast sea of open asphalt into a rich natural resource.
New Jersey, The National Guard and Solar Power
With electricity rates that are among the nation’s highest, New Jersey is a prime candidate for alternative energy investment, and the state has not disappointed. New Jersey is second only to California in solar installations, with over 3900 so far including the U.S.’s largest rooftop solar array in Atlantic City. The New Jersey National Guard was an early participant in the state’s groundbreaking Solar Renewable Energy Certificate program, which lets solar owners profit from the energy they generate. According to the U.S. Army Environmental Command, the Guard has already asked the Corps of Engineers to construct more solar projects in addition to the two solar parking lots, which are underway at the Joint Forces Headquarters at Fort Dix and the National Training Facility Headquarters at Sea Girt.
The U.S. Military and Solar Power
The U.S. military has entered the solar market from every angle – even in the sky, with a solar powered blimp in the works. Also underway is a lightweight portable solar mat for use in the field. Perhaps the most interesting development is the military’s use of solar power as a sustainable strategy for rebuilding and stabilizing war-torn communities. In Baghdad alone, the U.S. military has sponsored solar projects by the dozen, including a large array for a neighborhood clinic.
New Jersey Parking Lots and Solar Power
Regardless of its vanguard record on land preservation, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. In a few years it is likely to become the first state to face buildout – the end of available undeveloped land. By adding another obstacle to the construction of new power generating plants, buildout could curb the state’s long term economic prospects, or force it to import more energy. On the other hand, buildout could provide further impetus for a more sustainable approach to energy generation within the state. The New Jersey National Guard has lead the way to just such an approach, by positioning its acres of asphalt as a natural resource. Given New Jersey’s countless malls, corporate parks, school campuses, sports arenas, multiplexes, park-n-rides, and innumerable other car-friendly facilities, solar parking has a very bright future in the Garden State.
Image: Kevin Dooley at flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.