Leading solar power company SolarCity is set to start work on a mammoth 600-unit rooftop solar project for a housing complex at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, and a company higher-up has offered an interesting take on why projects like these will pound yet another nail in the coffin of fossil fuel dependency. In announcing the new project the VP of Development, Aaron Gillmore, said “The children who grow up in these neighborhoods will have a glimpse of the future before any of us—neighborhoods in which the majority of roofs have solar panels on them.”
Military Solar Power And The New Energy Landscape
Maybe it’s just us, but over the past few years we’ve been convinced that the Department of Defense has set itself up as a sledgehammer that is breaking apart the message of nay-sayers who claim that solar power and other forms of alternative energy can never replace fossil fuels.
The reason is simple. DoD employs hundreds of thousands of Americans from all walks of life and from every region of the US, with many from small towns and rural communities where solar arrays and other forms of alternative energy have yet to make an appearance.
As Gillmore hints, when children in military families grow up in an alternative energy environment it becomes part and parcel of a normal life, and raillery against alternative energy becomes abnormal.
It’s not just active duty military, either. As the Army’s Net Zero program is demonstrating, US military facilities are beginning to establish best practices models for sustainable operations, serving as “green ambassadors” to their host communities.
Air Force Solar Power
Big as it is, the Holloman rooftop solar project is just one piece of a larger Department of Defense rooftop solar initiative for military housing in collaboration with SolarCity called SolarStrong, which aims to encompass up to 120,000 homes in a five-year time frame, with an overall capacity of up to 300 megawatts.
Other SolarStrong projects are under way at Fort Bliss, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base.
As for ground mounted, utility scale solar installations, the Air Force has been one of the early adopters and lately it’s been venturing into new territory such as a solar-EV project at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
The Air Force is also behind some of the cutting-edge research into next generation solar technology, one example being the development of a quantum dot-enhanced solar cell in collaboration with the Army and the University of Buffalo.
Before You Pop The Corks…
With all the celebrating we’ve been doing over DoD and renewable energy it’s worth noting that there’s a counter-trend brewing up in the skies, in the form of coal derived jet synfuel.
Not too long ago, the Air Force was betting its future fuel scenario on domestically sourced coal synfuel. Although the Air Force has been focusing intensively on jet biofuel under the Obama Administration, a feasibility study for a major coal-to-liquid facility at Eileson AFB near Fairbanks, Alaska was completed in 2011.