Officials take step forward toward renewable energy

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Travis Edwards
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of North America's largest solar photovoltaic power system took place here April 23. The Nellis solar energy system, once operational, will generate 25 million kilowatt-hours of "clean" electricity for the base. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2008.

Rated at about 15 megawatts, the array will supply the base with more than 25 percent of its energy during peak summer months. The 70,000 solar panels that makeup the array are expected to save the Air Force more than $1 million in annual energy costs.

"This savings allows the Air Force to apply these funds toward higher priority mission requirements," said Col. Michael Bartley, 99th Air Base Wing commander. "The array provides a semi-secure and independent power source, a capability other military installations will soon move to acquire."

Jim Gibbons, governor of Nevada, attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

"I'm proud to say that Nevada and the Air Force are leading the way in utilizing renewable resources," he said at the ceremony.

The governor went on to say this project is a "great start in the right direction" to help reduce the country's dependency on foreign and non-renewable fuel."

The array will take up about 140 acres of unused Nellis land leased from the Air Force to Municipal Mortgage & Equity, who will finance, own and operate the system and sell the power to Nellis under the terms of a planned purchase agreement. The array is equipped with an advanced tracking system, which will give it the capability to follow the sun to capture 30 percent more energy than fixed-tilt systems.

"With the Nellis solar power initiative, the Air Force is making a strategic investment designed to save energy and mitigate the impact of rising utility costs," said Col. Tim Byers, Air Combat Command director of installations and mission support. "We are excited to be part of this innovative partnership with industry, the state of Nevada, the Defense Department, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and others to implement best energy practices at ACC."