Fort Huachuca’s lone wind turbine is about to get some solar company, and plenty of it. The Army has just announced that groundbreaking is set next week for a massive solar installation that will provide about 25 percent of the facility’s electricity needs when it is completed later this year.
The new military solar installation is billed as the largest undertaken by the Department of Defense, and it is just the latest in a rapidly growing string of renewable energy and energy conservation projects as DoD moves closer to a net zero vision.
How Much For US Military Solar Power?
As for how much the US taxpayer is on the hook for this massive project, the answer is zero. As in zilch.
Under an existing General Services Administration contract umbrella, the solar project is being installed as a power purchase agreement. This type of arrangement, widespread throughout the industry, calls for the solar installer to front the cost of the installation, which is then paid down through the electricity it generates.
In this case, the fort’s longtime electricity provider, Tuscon Electric Power, will pay for the installation as well as operating and maintaining it.
The installer is E.ON, a German-based diversified energy company with extensive operations in North America as well as Europe and Russia.
Aside from emission-free electricity production, we taxpayers benefit from the lower cost of solar electricity.
And, aside from the badly-needed savings on electricity bills, here’s what the Army gets out of it according to Major Gen. Robert Ashley, commander of Fort Huachuca:
Energy is an installation priority. 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.
With the Department of Defense fully committed to the science and impacts of climate change, that phrase “energy security” is aimed directly at zero and low-emission, renewable, locally sourced energy, leaving little room for fossil fuels and long-distance fuel transportation.
Solar Falls Off Cliff, US Military Catches It
Just yesterday we took note of the steep nosedive that the cost of solar energy has been taking globally, and the Department of Defense is perfectly positioned to take full advantage of that trend even in the face of budget cuts.
Two years ago, the Army launched the Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), which is basically a team of experienced solar facilitators that speeds up the movement of utility-scale renewable energy projects from the drawing board and into the ground. Before EITF, individual base commanders had to reinvent the wheel with each renewable energy project.
In support of EITF, this year the Army Corps of Engineers launched a $7 billion renewable energy program for power purchase agreements with energy companies under a streamlined contracting procedure that is commonly used for architecture and engineering projects.
Fort Huachuca On A Renewable Energy Roll
In addition to the new wind and PV (photovoltaic) installations, Fort Huachuca is also home to a new cutting edge microgrid project and the new award winning Col. C. Smith Middle School, a net zero building that includes energy-efficient lighting, extensive use of natural lighting, and rainwater harvesting.
The base’s bragging rights to renewable energy actually go back to the 1980’s. Early projects from those years included a solar pool-heating system, a domestic hot water system and several small PV systems. Additional small scale PV systems were installed through the 1990’s on up to 2004.
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