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As U.S. Army's Massive Solar Array Goes Live, 'Military Power' has New Meaning

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January 23, 2013

As U.S. Army's Massive Solar Array Goes Live, 'Military Power' has New Meaning

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor


It covers 42 acres in the New Mexico desert—and from an aerial view, looks like a huge sheet of Braille (or alien scrit)—but it actually is the world's largest low-concentration photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant; as well as the biggest installation of solar equipment ever planned and completed by the American military.

The $16.8 million solar plant went online on January 16. Developed in coordination with the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Siemens (News - Alert) Government Technologies, Inc., and the investment bank Bostonia, the 4.1-megawatt (MW) White Sands Missile Range solar energy system annually will generate about 10 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity and provide savings of $930,000. Complemented by a 375-kilowatt (kW) solar carport, the solar array deployed at White Sands will supply about 10 percent of the total power used at the installation and reduce carbon emissions by 7,400 tons per year. Featuring Fremont, California-based Solaria's proprietary solar PV technology, the ground-mounted single-axis tracking system follows the sun across the sky, increasing energy yield by up to 30 percent over fixed systems. All energy generated from the project will be consumed by onsite operations. 

At the dedication of the system, White Sands’ commander, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, remarked, "I came here about four months ago talking about how White Sands is a national treasure and now we can feel proud that we're really on the environmental edge," Bingham said. "It takes passion to do something like this. I'm just excited about the journey that will lie ahead.""This is an exciting project for the U.S. Army," said Garrison Commander Col. Leo Pullar. "A sunny location like New Mexico provides an ideal site for solar power. This project illustrates the U.S. Army's commitment to going green, our focus on operating on net zero energy, and doing what we can to help protect the environment."

"Siemens is committed to helping the Department of Defense achieve unprecedented levels of energy efficiency, security and independence," said Judy Marks, president and CEO of Siemens Government Technologies, Inc., of Arlington, Virginia. "Through this Energy Savings Performance Contract, the value of sustainability is measured not just in terms of financial benefits, but benefits to maintaining mission readiness, and the preservation of options for the Army's future." 

"The Department of Defense is deploying renewable energy and reducing its reliance on fossil fuel resources. This solar-energy system demonstrates that the U.S. government's goals for enhancing security through energy independence can be met both economically and practically when the public and private sectors work together," said Dan Shugar, CEO of Solaria Corporation.

Construction of the solar power plant began in April 2012 and was completed in December 2012. The solar PV system was the primary component of an Energy Savings Performance Contract implemented by the Building Technologies Division of Siemens Industry, Inc. Under the contract task order, Siemens will maintain and operate the equipment and will sell the energy it generates to White Sands Missile Range at the same rate they are currently paying the local utility company. The Army will own the renewable energy credits, or RECs, and use them toward meeting federal renewable energy mandates. The project supports President Barack Obama's directive that federal agencies use Energy Savings Performance Contracts to make $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next year. It also supports the Army's renewable energy goals.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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