As the nation is thinking about its military forces this Memorial Day, we want to salute the many branches of our armed forces that are embracing renewable energy to increase autonomy and reduce costs.
U.S. Department of Defense, the single largest energy consumer in the world, has embraced clean energy sources in recent years, doubling its renewable power generation between 2011 and 2015. That means the military is producing enough clean energy to power the equivalent of about 286,000 average homes, the Defense Department says.
SunPower has installed, and is under contract to install, more than 100 megawatts of solar power at 33 federal government project sites.
Take Vandenberg Air Force base near Lompoc, Calif. We just broke ground there on a 28-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system. Once completed, it’s expected to be the largest behind-the-meter solar power system in the Air Force, meaning 100 percent of the energy it produces will be consumed on site. It will produce about 53,000 megawatt hours each year – about 35 percent of Vandenberg's energy needs.
Other significant SunPower® solar military projects include:
- A 12.5-megawatt PV solar power plant being developed at the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
- A 13.78-megawatt system at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California, built in 2012. It provides more than 30 percent of the base’s power needs.
- A 13.2-megawatt system at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, built in 2007. The Air Force liked it so much that it added a 15-megawatt SunPower system at the base in 2016. Together, they're enough to power the entire base during daylight hours.
- A 6-megawatt system built in 2011 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which helps the base meet its goal of being net zero energy, meaning it generates all of the electricity it needs while saving more than $650,000 in electricity from the grid per year.
Military Solar Panels Increase Security
The goal here? Like many government institutions facing tight budget times, the military is interested in maximizing its resources.
PV solar power allows them to do just that. Here's one example. Soldiers have to haul diesel fuel to run the generators needed to power their equipment and forward bases in areas without access to conventional electricity.
The convoys trucking in that fuel are always at risk of being attacked in combat situations. But now soldiers can pop up a PV system to charge their equipment, meaning fewer convoys are needed, helping troops avoid unnecessary risks. Also, the solar energy those arrays are generating is free, saving the military – and taxpayers – billions of dollars over time.
The future continues to indicate a clean energy policy for the military, with more branches adopting the net zero strategy. The Defense Department's goal is to consume 3,000 megawatts from renewable sources by 2025.
SunPower looks forward to helping to make that a reality, and we’re excited this year to be joining this week’s Society of American Military Engineers 2017 Joint Engineer Training Conference & Expo in Columbus, Ohio. There we’ll be meeting uniformed service members, private sector engineers and government civilians to share the latest about our SunPower® Oasis® and SunPower® Helix™ solar solutions as well as our solar energy storage options.