US Air Force completes biggest military Solar power installation

by Tina Casey.

It looks like the Air Force wins the week in terms of military renewable energy projects. The biggest military solar power plant in the US has just been completed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, a 16.4 megawatt installation that is expected to save about $500,000 in electricity costs yearly and provide about 35 percent of the base’s electricity needs.

Renewable Energy at Davis Monthan Air Force base
Renewable Energy. Solar PV powers Davis Monthan Air Force base.

If you’re keeping score at home, the new military solar power plant nudges the Air Force ahead of the Army, at least for now. Earlier this week, the Army Corps of Engineers and Energy Initiatives Task Force announced 15 contracts for military solar power, which is pretty impressive, but that was a preliminary step involving the formation of a pool of eligible bidders for future projects.

Chevron…There They Go Again

Now here’s something interesting. One of those 15 winning Army contracts went to Chevron Energy Solutions, which is also part of the public-private partnership that went into building the new solar power plant at Davis-Monthan AFB.

Chevron Energy Solutions is under the Chevron umbrella. Chevron recently made news for giving away free pizza coupons after a massive gas line explosion in Pennsylvania, but Chevron Energy Solutions has been running hard on the solar track with a focus on government and school facilities.

Another partner in the project is Macquarie Infrastructure Company, which also has fossil fuel interests along with a range of other infrastructure operations. Like Chevron it has diversified into renewable energy, through MIC Solar Energy Holdings.

A more familiar name in the solar business, SunEdison, constructed and will manage the new solar power plant under contract with MIC Solar.

For the record, the installation itself consists of 57,000 SunEdison MEMC Silvantis™ solar modules. They are mounted on single-axis trackers that pivot to take best advantage of the sun’s position throughout the day.

Davis-Monthan AFB solar array. Image courtesy of Tucson Sentinel
Renewable Energy at Davis-Monthan Air Force base. This solar array of 16.4MW will power up to 16,400 homes. Image courtesy: Tucson Sentinel

Also for the record, the project was financed by North American Development Bank, which was set up by the US and Mexico to develop infrastructure projects that benefit the environment along the border.

The new project enables Davis-Monthan to avoid about 17,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, 11 metric tons of nitrogen oxides, and 17 metric tons of sulfur dioxide annually.

It was built under a power purchase agreement with no up-front cost to the Air Force, so no taxpayers were harmed in the making of this renewable energy project.

Air Force Solar Power

Now let’s take a look at how the new solar installation plays into the Davis-Monthan mission, which is this:

Deploy, employ, support, and sustain attack airpower in support of Combatant Commanders anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. Train the finest attack pilots for the Combat Air Forces. Provide every member of Team D-M with responsive, tailored, mission-focused base support.


At first glance there’s not much of an overlap there, but now take a look at the Davis-Monthan vision:

A premier Fighter Wing comprised of resilient Warrior Airmen, armed with precise tools and training; powered by a culture of leadership and innovation; prepared to provide responsive combat airpower which exceeds Combatant Command expectations for excellence.

And here is a snippet from the base’s “Green in the Desert” program demonstrating how the culture of leadership and innovation dovetails with clean energy:

…the DM Energy Team has begun redeveloping the base’s strategy with high-tech solutions to meet Air Force wide mandates in four areas: new technology, strategic partnerships, energy awareness, and focus on the basics. With innovation and energy consciousness in every Airman’s life, we can meet the Air Force goal to “Think green, build green, and fly blue.”

It’s also worth noting that Davis-Monthan is one of those military facilities transitioning out of coal power and into renewable energy (Fort Drum in New York is another recent example).

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This article, US Air Force Scores Biggest Ever Military Solar Power Plant, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy. Tina CaseyTina 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+.

U.S. Department of Defense Goes Big On Wind, Solar, and Biomass

by Tina Casey

We’ve been following a massive $7 billion renewable energy buy that the Department of Defense kicked off a while back, and the program is really picking up steam.

In the latest round of developments, yesterday the US Army Corps of Engineers paired up with the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF) to announce contracts with 20 more companies.

Renewable Energy. Solar installation at Fort Carson courtesy of USACE.
Renewable Energy. Solar installation at Fort Carson courtesy of USACE. The brigade and battalion headquarters building, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, features an on-site solar array, which supplies approximately 62 percent of the building’s electrical power needs.

If that Army task force rings a bell, we just noted yesterday that EITF swung a deal for Fort Drum in New York to get up to 100 percent renewable energy 24/7 from the company ReEnergy, which refitted a coal fired plant at the facility to burn local biomass.

20 New Military Renewable Energy Contracts

The Army Corps of Engineers contracts are awarded under a streamlined process typically used for architecture and engineering projects called Multiple Award Task Order Contract. The winning companies are eligible to bid on upcoming projects, which is why we can’t tell you what the specific projects are. However, we do have a list of the awardees.

The $7 billion renewable energy program covers solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, but geothermal was left out of this round. That still left plenty of renewable energy goodies to go around.

Solar was the big winner, with 15 contracts spread among Ameresco Inc. (also known for wastewater-to-biogas), Chevron Energy Solutions Company (more on that later), Constellation NewEnergy, Distributed Sun LLC, EDF Renewable Energy, Energy Ventures LLC, First Solar Development, FLS Energy, ABM Government Services LLC, RE Independence CO LLC, SunEdison Government Solutions, SunEdison LLC, SunWize Technologies Inc., TransGen Energy Inc., and the aptly named Victory Renewables LLC.

Another three projects went to wind power. Despite some initial concerns over radar interference, the Defense Department has been dipping a toe into the wind market (here and here for example) where possible.

Ameresco nailed one of the three wind contracts and the other two went  M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. & Associates, Inc. and Infigen Energy US Development LLC.

That leaves two contracts for biomass, one of which was scored by Ameresco (there they go again) and the other by Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc.

All together, the $7 billion initiative now covers 79 contracts. It’s also worth noting here that the entire program is financed by third parties under power purchase agreements, so no taxpayers were injured in the making of all this renewable energy.

That financing structure also insulates the program from the conservative Republican budget axe, enabling the US renewable energy market to keep growing despite repeated attempts to cut it off at the knees (the fight over the wind power tax credit being just one notable example).

What Is Chevron Doing In The Solar Market?

Yes, that Chevron. Better known for its fossil fuel activity, the company purchased PG&E’s retail unit back in 2000 to form Chevron Energy Solutions, later bringing in Viron Energy Services.

It has been humming along ever since, mainly in solar with some fuel cell, smart grid, geothermal and wastewater/kitchen grease-to-energy thrown in.

For the record, aside from a series of major renewable energy projects with governments and schools, Chevron is also using solar energy to power its oil operations.

What John Kerry Said

Speaking of fossil fuel extraction, the Defense Department’s aggressive pursuit of renewable energy began a few years ago, so it predates US Secretary of State and well known climate hawk John Kerry. Kerry has more than picked up the ball, most recently with a barn burner of a climate change speech in Indonesia to kick off this week. Here’s one nugget:

When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.

Even without the climate change angle, that list resonates right here in the US, as the impacts of fossil fuel extraction continue to wreak havoc on local communities. On top of ongoing issues with mountaintop coal mining and oil/gas fracking, the last week alone has brought yet another coal spill to West Virginia, gas pipe explosions in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and a second leaking pipe under a coal ash dump in North Carolina.

In the context of military renewable energy, our troops are working to prevent the growth of local threats right here at home, so it would be nice if they got a little more support from certain federal representatives who seem more intent on letting things go to pot than helping to protect public health and safety.

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This article, Department of Defense Goes Big On Wind, Solar, And Biomass, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy. Tina CaseyTina 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+.