Military EcoTech: Solar Shines on Nevada Air Force Base

Solar and defense have a long history, as alternative energy sources can help out in remote locations. (Ironic when you think about securing nations with rich oil reserves.) And this morning a well-known Air Force Base, Nellis, in Nevada, is switching on what the Air Force is calling “North America’s largest solar photovoltaic system” — a 14 MW solar system that will generate more than 30 million kWh per year.
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About 12,000 people live on the base, which has five wings and 150 aircraft, and the 140-acre, 72,000 solar panel installation will supply a quarter of the power used. They’re having a grand ole ceremony at the base today. Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, Air Force officials and representatives from solar manufacturer SunPower, which designed and built the system, and solar financier MMA Renewable Ventures will be there.

MMA Renewable Ventures funded the system with financing commitments from Citi, Allstate, John Hancock Financial Services and Merrill Lynch. Utility Nevada Power plans to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) created by the solar system. The Air Force previously told CNET that the project will save the base $1 million a year and about $83,000 a month.

Nellis Air Force Base commander Colonel Michael Bartley said in a press release that the installation would act as “a future test bed for the Department of Defense” to look at similar arrangements throughout the U.S. Nevada’s sun-filled desert climate is a perfect location for such a big project. Michael Yackira, CEO of Sierra Pacific Resources, the parent company of Nevada Power, said the Nellis installation makes Nevada the state with the most solar generation per capita. Last week solar thermal startup Ausra said it would be building a solar thermal manufacturing plant in Las Vegas, the first of its kind in the U.S.
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