Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona is set to get a 15 megawatt solar power installation that will create 550 new green jobs during construction, which will take about a year. It’s also going to take a huge bite out of the base’s carbon footprint, supplying almost half of the base’s peak electrical demand. Luke currently spends more than $5 million per year on electricity and uses more than 60 million kilowatt hours annually in mission support.
Tea partiers, take note: the new solar installation will be the largest of its kind on federal property, but it won’t cost taxpayers money up front. It will be owned by local utility Arizona Public Service, which will sell the clean renewable electricity to Luke under a long term agreement. Luke anticipates saving millions over the course of the contract, which will not be subject to the same market-driven spikes that bedevil fossil fuel suppliers.
Solar Installations, Marginal Land and Department of Defense Property
In a move that echoes the EPA’s push to use brownfields for renewable energy, the Air Force chose a 100-acre site for the new solar installation that sits in a flood plain, and would be difficult to use for other purposes. That’s a sustainable contrast to fossil fuel harvesting, which destroys valuable land and ecosystems. It’s also another indication of the possibility that in the not-to-distant future, the Department of Defense could become a major supplier of renewable energy to the civilian grid, in addition to cutting its own reliance on fossil fuels.
SunPower and the Luke Air Force Base Solar Installation
The system will be installed by solar energy giant SunPower, which has established a solid track record of working on federal properties including Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The company foresees a reduction of 19,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year for Luke, which also gains a logistical advantage from solar power: the energy generated on site will help insulate the base from the effects of any widespread power outages that happen along.
Luke Air Force Base and Sustainability
The new solar installation is just the latest in a string of conservation and renewable energy initiatives at Luke. According to a recent article in The Arizona Republic, the growing list includes an existing rooftop solar installation at the base (with plans to add up to 10 megawatts more in rooftop solar), high efficiency air conditioning that uses natural underground temperatures to chill recycled water, and a golf course irrigated with reclaimed wastewater. The base is also aiming to achieve a LEED Platinum rating for a new training building currently under construction.
Image: Thunderbird Demonstration Team at Luke Air Force Base courtesy of U.S. Air Force on 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+.