The US Military’s Mission to Go Solar


Thanks to a recent push from the Department of Defense to increase the energy efficiency of its bases, large scale solar panel projects are being installed at military facilities around the country. Lead by the Energy Initiatives Task Force, whose goal is to ensure all military bases receive 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025, both the Army and Air Force are turning to solar energy to meet their goals and ensure energy independence.

It should be noted that this initiative is coming shortly after the marked decrease in the cost of solar energy technology in the residential sector and the dominance of solar energy as a renewable energy source in California.

Solar Panel Installations in the South

Redstone Arsenal, located about ten miles outside of Huntsville, Ala. has just finalized a contract to install a solar field on approximately 66 acres of land. The installation is impressive both for its size — it is considered to be the largest of its kind in Alabama — and for its creative use of the land.

As Garrison Commander Colonel Bill Marks noted, the solar panels are being installed, “…on land that we really can’t use for anything else because of some of the explosive arcs that we have here…”

The Redstone Arsenal solar field is expected to produce 18,000 megawatts of power, which is more than enough to cover the 80 megawatts the base uses during peak season in the summer, plus provide energy to nearby homes in the event of an emergency.

The base’s solar field would have been a boon to local residents in 2011, when a tornado took out power for nine days. Having the solar panels at Redstone Arsenal will mean that in the event of a future disaster, 1,650 homes will be saved from potential power outages.

Anniston Army Depot lies about 100 miles south of Redstone Arsenal and is undergoing similar solar energy improvements. When complete, the solar field will cover 90 acres and generate enough energy to power 1,600 homes. More than just a power source, the solar field will further the government’s goal to become less dependant on foreign energy sources.

Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of Army Energy and Sustainability, made the observation that, “Warfare is changing and our dependence on energy is a weakness our enemies will exploit. We have to increase our resilience at our installations.”

Solar power has the potential to be instrumental in establishing that energy independence and resilience, and therefore, is on course to become an integral part of both national infrastructure and security improvements.

Nellis Air Force Base Continues Solar Trend

While the Army has been focusing on projects in Alabama, the Air Force has been busy expanding its own facilities in Nevada. In 2007 Nellis Air Force Base installed a solar field that produces 14 megawatts of power. A second solar field dubbed Nellis II broke ground last year and is projected to generate 15 megawatts of power.

Like the installations at Redstone Arsenal and Anniston Depot, the solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base will help the Department of Defense reach its renewable energy goals by 2025. It will also, as part of a broader national security strategy, reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil.

These three military bases, when taken together, provide a powerful case study for how solar technology can be used to protect the environment, increase national security, and create
jobs for veterans.

The benefits of solar power, however, are not limited to large scale projects.

To find out how installing solar panels on your rooftop can help you drive your electric bill down to zero, contact us today for a free quote.