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US Military Makes BIG Solar Power Push

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2012 at 10:09 am by Solar Energy USA
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department-of-defense-for-bliss-solar-panel-installationThe US military is investing in solar power on a large scale.  In September 2011 the Army launched the Energy Initiatives Office, the mission of which is to engage the private sector in identifying and investing in big green power projects that could be built on the Army’s vast land holdings. The Army estimates it will need about $7.1 billion in investment over the next few years to meet its goal of using 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, and it doesn’t expect that money to come from the federal government.

The Energy Initiative Office is behind the plan to install 160,000 photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems atop private military residential roofs in some 33 states. The Army is looking to solar energy to lock them into guaranteed energy rates today, at lower power rates, with the goal of selling back excess energy to local utility providers.

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Most of the renewable energy projects being considered at military bases across the county are large-scale, distributed energy ventures. By generating energy onsite, the military can help to ensure resiliency and reliability in its energy supply, which is clearly preferable to the vulnerability inherent in using energy from a source the military does not control. One such installation calls for 5,500 solar panels to be installed at one of the Army’s largest bases – Fort Bliss in New Mexico. Another military solar project recently completed at Edwards Air Force Base just outside of Los Angeles, California features three PV solar farms across the base with the generation capacity of 3.4MW (megawatts) worth of solar power.

Other Solar Power Technologies

The US military is also implementing solar technologies in the field. Solar powered tents have been utilized since 2010 to provide shelter from the harsh and hot climate overseas as well as provide clean energy in remote locations to power critical communication devices, laptops, and other electronics.

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One of the most amazing features of the solar powered tents is how much money they have already saved on fuel costs. Since the solar cells are connected to a system of storage batteries, less money is spent on vehicles driving back and forth to transport fuel. That also means spending less money on replacement parts for vehicles that can break down during these fuel runs.

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Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, says solar powered field applications are “ideal for charging up batteries, making sure your (communications), night vision goggles and computers are powered up. You don’t want a generator on top of a mountain, and you don’t want to have to bring fuel to a generator or haul batteries.”

Solar tents have saved the Kansas National Guard over $230,000 in fuel costs. Because of this great feat they have been nominated for the 33rd Annual Secretary of the Army Energy and Water Management Awards.

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These solar tents can be applied in a variety of daily, non-military applications like with the Red Cross and other organizations that operate long hours outdoors each day.

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