U.S. Military Breaks New Ground with Largest Solar Installation

I recently had the privilege of speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Fort Huachuca renewable energy project in southern Arizona. I joined guest speakers Congressman Ron Barber; Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army, Installations, Energy & Environment; Major General  Robert Ashley, Fort Huachuca Commanding General; Amanda Simpson, Executive Director of the Army’s Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF); David Hutchens, President Tucson Electric Power; and, Steve Trenholm, President E.ON North Americas in celebrating this innovative partnership.

I can’t begin to tell you how proud I was to represent the agency at this event. GSA’s contributions to this project not only reflect our commitment to sustainability, it also demonstrates the value of the services we provide to our partners.

Officials from GSA and DoD break ground of Fort Huachuca's new solar project.
Officials from GSA and DoD break ground of Fort Huachuca’s new solar project.

The Fort Huachuca solar photovoltaic (PV) array promises to be the largest solar project in the Department of Defense at a military base with an 18-megawatt (MW) PV array, providing 25 percent of the military base’s annual energy use.

This project serves as a model for innovative partnering between the military, GSA, private industry and the utility provider, and promotes both the Army’s energy security objectives and the utility’s renewable energy goals. For GSA, this is an opportunity to leverage our contracting vehicles for purchasing sustainable products and services, thereby helping our customers achieve their sustainability goals and meet the President’s mandates to lead by example in energy and economic performance.

Last summer, the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force approached GSA to discuss the possibility of using a GSA Areawide Public Utility Contract to secure renewable solar energy.  Our representatives, Linda Collins and attorney Richard Butterworth, worked closely with the team to develop an areawide contract delivery order and to ensure the project was in compliance with statutes, rules and regulations. Together, the team chose Ft. Huachuca as the first site for this project.

Over the past year, GSA collaborated with the Army, Tucson Electric Power Company and its developer E.ON Climate & Renewables  to develop comprehensive, cost-effective large-scale renewable energy project to meet the fort’s energy needs.

Project details:

  • The PV solar panels will be installed on a 155-acre parcel of land on Fort Huachuca.

  • The project will utilize the existing GSA areawide public utility contract, and TEP will provide
    electric service at Arizona Corporation Commission approved rates.

  • TEP will fund, own and operate the solar PV project and has contracted with industry partner E.ON for the system’s design, engineering, procurement and construction management.

  • As the utility provider, TEP is uniquely positioned to streamline the interconnection process through the TEP-owned Fort Huachuca substation, thereby reducing interconnection costs and improving system reliability.

  • Construction is set to begin immediately and the PV panels will begin providing clean, renewable energy to the base this fall.

These kinds of projects are vital to building a sustainable infrastructure for our nation. Since 2009, GSA has increased our renewable onsite electricity generation from 2,000 megawatt hours in 2010 to more than 27,000 megawatt hours in 2013 through a number of Recovery Act projects. This has mostly been done through solar power projects such as this one. GSA is working hard to achieve a 30 percent clean power consumption goal by 2020, and solar projects within our real estate portfolio are one path towards that objective.  When we are done we anticipate the production of an equivalent to 29,000 megawatt hours per year of clean energy, and this is enough to power approximately 2,700 average American homes.

Sustainable facilities such as this are the future of government. I hope you’re as excited as I am to be a part of this effort.

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