For a coal fan, President Trump sure did chalk up a lot of renewable energy credits during his first 100 days. Barely squeaking in under the wire is the US Army’s largest ever renewables project, a sprawling wind and solar power complex that is expected to fulfill more than half the yearly electricity needs of US Army Garrison Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
The official ribbon cutting ceremony isn’t until June 2 but the complex began commercial operation on April 7, so let’s take a look under the hood (so to speak) and see what’s going on.
Army’s Yuuuuge Solar + Wind Complex Really Is Huge
For those of you new to the topic, the US Army is a leading utility scale renewable energy developer, so when they say the Fort Hood renewable energy project is its biggest ever, that means something.
The 65-megawatt (AC) complex breaks down to 15 for solar from a site at Fort Hood, and 50 for wind from an offsite wind farm located in Floyd County.
Aside from being the single biggest project for the Army, it’s also the Army’s first renewable energy project to combine solar and wind in a hybrid system, and the first project to combine onsite and offsite power generation.
Also, the onsite solar system is designed to operate as a microgrid, guaranteeing the base a secure supply of electricity in case the local grid goes down.
To ice the cake, US taxpayers shelled out no money up front for all this. The Army’s renewable energy initiatives are designed as power purchase agreements (Apex Clean Energy is the project owner along with Northleaf Capital Partners under an arrangement with the Defense Logistics Agency).
In fact, the Army anticipates that it will save about $168 million over the life of the contract.
Fort Hood Is Also Yuuuuge
The scale of the project is also of interest considering that Energy Secretary Rick Perry has just ordered up a new grid reliability study. Perry’s memo for the new study makes the case for supporting coal power plants at the expense of renewables.
That memo was met with a flurry of criticism from CleanTechnica and many others, but Perry has also done a lot of enthusiastic cheerleading for wind and solar all during the first 100 days of the Trump Administration.
It seems more likely that the grid report will be met with the same fate as that notorious EPA fracking report — in other words, it will be laughed off the table.
The US military has come around to recognizing that renewable energy isn’t just a climate change solution. It can also provide military facilities with a greater level of energy security than conventional fossil plants, and by extension with their local communities.
With that in mind, consider that Fort Hood bills itself as the “largest active duty armored post in the U.S. Armed Services.” The facility sprawls over 214,000 acres with an assignment of 40,000 soldiers.
Adding meat to the bone in terms of grid reliability, Fort Hood is located in the vicinity of Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth, all of which are experiencing a surge in growth.
Here’s how it all fits together according to Apex President and CEO Mark Goodwin:
“We have approximately 20 turbines and they are on a collection string that connects into an interconnection substation and then that connects to the grid…and then we have a partner utility that will take the power from the wind farm and deliver it to the base. So, it is putting power onto the grid and then what Fort Hood is doing, they are reaping the benefit as a big savings in what they are paying now.”
Meanwhile, the renewable energy industry is booming in Texas, thanks partly to a wind transmission initiative that took shape during the years when Rick Perry was Governor.
Image (screenshot): via US Army.