Marine Corps Solar Project Advances on Energy Targets and Secures Awards

SunPower’s high efficiency solar panels enabled Baker Electric Solar to offer the Marine Corps a solution that generates the electricity they required as well as looks great with the new BEQs. The combination of solar energy with innovative engineering technologies allowed us to create dual-purpose structures that will help the military achieve their renewable energy goals year after year.”

– Ted Baker, President, Baker Electric, Inc. & Baker Electric Solar

Tasked with a mandate to source 50% of the energy required for its shore-based operations from renewable sources by 2020, the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) turned the construction of Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQs) into another opportunity to advance on this goal. With excellent solar resources at Twentynine Palms, California, the USMC selected solar power for their Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and enlisted Baker Electric Solar to install a 1.5 MW solar system. However, there was one stipulation: solar panels couldn’t be installed on any BEQ rooftop.

Up to the challenge, Baker Electric Solar turned an amphitheater, parking lot, and parking garage into dual-purpose solar systems. Due to space constraints, SunPower high-efficiency solar panels were chosen because they were the only commercially available panels that could meet the military’s energy requirements. Completing an estimated six-month project in only two months, Baker Electric Solar’s ingenuity, attention to aesthetics, and overall installation quality earned the project SunPower’s prestigious Intelegant Award for Excellence as well as an award from the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA). With this award-winning solar solution, the USMC is one step closer to their energy goals and can look forward to saving $3.2 million over the next 25 years.

Project Challenges Drive Innovation

Located in the Mojave Desert, the USMC base at Twentynine Palms was ideally located to turn sunlight into electricity. Consequently, solar power was included as part of the design of the BEQ-9 construction project, which featured three 4-story BEQs, a landmark projection tower, an outdoor amphitheater, and a parking garage. However, the opportunity brought with it the challenges of extreme heat and wind storms. In addition, the USMC’s request for proposal (RFP) included restrictions on where the solar panels could be placed. To address the extreme conditions and space restrictions, Baker Electric Solar created two work shifts using two different crews each day to maintain productivity in high heat, developed an attachment clip to better secure the panels against extreme winds, and turned the amphitheater and other buildings into dual-purpose structures by integrating solar panels into the existing design.

SunPower Overcomes Space Constraints

Advanced 3D modeling helped develop a design that successfully integrated the solar system with the available structures, but a regular-efficiency solar panel still couldn’t meet the RFP’s electricity production requirements. “The only way we were able to achieve the capacity that the military required was to use the highest-efficiency panel on the market. The SunPower modules were really the only way of getting it done,” said Baker Electric Solar’s Solar Project Development Engineer Quinn Laudenslager. By incorporating SunPower solar panels, Baker Electric Solar was able to design and install a system that not only met the base’s energy specifications, but will also save the base more than $3 million in electrical costs.

Marine Corps Project Wins Awards

In two short months, Baker Electric Solar met all the RFP requirements and completed the BEQ-9 solar project. BES also integrated a monitoring system into the base’s existing building management system, enabling quick and easy review of the solar system’s performance. The innovation, aesthetics, and high quality of this USMC solar project have garnered several awards, including the 2011 SunPower Intelegant Award for Excellence and a 2012 Photovoltaic Project of Distinction Award conferred by SEPA and SEIA. The BEQ-9 project is also registered for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum, which highlights the overall environmental commitment of the USMC. While these accolades are great, the bottom line is that the Marine Corps base can look forward to substantial energy cost savings for the next 25 years and are another step closer to achieving critical renewable energy objectives.

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Project Overview
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Location:    Twentynine Palms, CA
Completed:    September 2011
Installation Type:    Solar Shade Structures & Rooftop Systems
System Size:    1.5 MW
PV Surface Area:    82,000 sq ft
Number of Panels:    4,680
Products:    SunPower® E19/318

Subhead: 
Benefits
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  • Saves the base approximately $3.2 million over 25 years
  • Features system monitoring that provides operational transparency and energy generation data that integrate with and display on the base’s existing building management console
  • Generates over 1.1 million kWh of clean electricity each year
  • Offsets 37 million lbs. of CO2 over the lifetime of the system