Military ‘Enlisting the Sun’ to Improve Energy Security, Reduce Reliance on Fossil Fuels

The military services have installed a total of 130 megawatts of solar photovoltaic energy systems at U.S. installations, and have plans to complete 1.1 gigawatts of new photovoltaic capacity by 2017, according to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Each of the services is aiming to acquire 1 gigawatt of renewable energy by 2025, a response to rising energy costs, potential energy supply disruptions and the need for more secure and clean energy generation and distribution.

Photovoltaic technologies are projected to account for 58 percent of the services’ renewable energy capacity additions through 2017. Solar power is playing several roles for the military at its installations. The services have utilized large, centralized utility-scale solar projects to power bases, as well as smaller, distributed-generation systems to energize buildings and homes.

The Navy has 58 megawatts of solar power generation projects to date, and already has awarded 20 megawatts of solar projects that are excepted to come online in the near future, the report states. New projects are planned for Marine Corps Bases Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., among other sites.

The Air Force has 38 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity operating, with plans to add 26 megawatts of new solar generation in 2013. Two projects expected to come online by the end of year include a 14.5-megawatt project at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., which will become the service’s largest operating solar project, and a 6-megawatt array at Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass.

The Army’s solar portfolio is poised to expand significantly in the coming years. Now there are more than 36 megawatts of solar capacity installed at its installations. The service already is moving forward with two, 20-megawatt solar projects at Fort Irwin, Calif., and Fort Bliss, Texas, as well as a microgrid-ready, 15-megawatt system at Fort Detrick, Md., which will be able to provide critical power to the installation in the event of a power outage.

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