Green Jobs US Air Force Thunderbird team in an air show over Luke Air Force Base, which will get solar power

Published on August 10th, 2010 | by Tina Casey


Luke Air Force Base Gets Colossal Solar Power Installation and 550 Green Jobs, Too

August 10th, 2010 by  

US Air Force Thunderbird team in an air show over Luke Air Force Base, which will get solar powerLuke 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

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Paul Felix Schott

    The United States Air Force leads the way again. With the newest State Of The Art Hawaii Air Guard’s F-22 Solar Powered Hangar and Maintenance Building Facility that will enable an incredible platform in Hawaii for the USAF and are Air Guard to be and stay the best in the World. This will Help ensure that we will always be able to protect our Nation’s skies and the Pacific Ocean and beyond. July Friday 22,2011 F-22 Solar Powered Facility Project. Solar Energy is not new to the USAF although this is just the start to many more projects using Solar Energy Technology with the USAF.
    United We Will Always Stand In God we Trust
    True American Patriots
    God Bless
    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

  • Paul Felix Schott

    Great News From the Pentagon Clean Fuel Energy From the Sun July 19, 2011
    In Hawaii The Department of Defense will start to cover its Military
    Family Housing with Solar Energy. This will greatly help stop the need
    for Oil in the Hawaii Islands. This is just the start to the D.O.D.
    reducing its 4 billion dollar need for Dirty Energy. From now on the
    D.O.D. will look to Renewable Energy, Clean Energy. The Hawaiian
    Islands will see the Largest Solar covered homes and housing Roofs in
    the World 6,000 units. Thanks to William Lynn Deputy Secretary of the Defense and
    Steven Chu Secretary of Energy and to many others. The D.O.D.
    has some 300,000 building the day will come when all will be powered by
    Clean Energy. i can not thank all that made this happen enough.
    GOD Bless
    United We Stand In GOD We Will Always Trust
    Story By
    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

  • This is great! I hope that other Air Bases will be able to follow this example! I know my father is ex-air force and he was happy to hear about this!

  • Mae’Yodrin

    I find it sad that many civilians feel that Obama isnt doing much as a president.

    The military’s budget competes only with health care and soical security in terms of the biggest thigns sucking this country economically dry.

    Energy is is the military’s budget as social security is to the american budget.

    By lowering the total energy they need to use, through effiency efforts, and by making them energy-nutrtral , possibly energy-posity (surplus producer, supplier, and seller to civilian market) with renewables, we may see the day when we can maintain the same effective war efforts of today on less then 30% of the total budget.

    Now thats what I call a Commander in Chief

  • Den

    The use subsurface for cooling water, air and others is promising.

  • Jacob

    There seems to be a trend for the US military to use its bloated budget to pursue aims that Congress should have allocated to clean energy anyway. I suppose this shows that when change comes, there’s no stopping it.

  • Bill Woods

    “Colossal Solar Power Installation” — 15 MW

    “Huge Solar Installation” — 6 MW

    “Gigantic 10 MW Turbine” — okay, for a single turbine that really is big.

    But what adjectives are you going to have left for larger plants like DeSoto (25 MW), California Valley (250 MW), or Rancho Cielo (600 MW)?

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