Luke AFB to Build 17-MW Solar System

by | Jul 26, 2010

A 17-megawatt solar project planned at Luke Air Force Base is expected to provide power for a majority of the base by 2011, increasing the U.S. Department of Defense’s use of renewable energy in Arizona, reports The Arizona Republic.

Luke AFB’s solar panel array is expected to be the largest in the nation, and will be bigger than the 14-megawatt solar array that opened in 2007 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, which was the largest at the time, according to the newspaper.

The 17-megawatt solar project would increase the amount of solar power on the Arizona Public Service Co. grid by about 50 percent if it were built today.

Luke AFB officials expect to save $7 million to $10 million on electricity costs over 25 years. Details of the project have not been released but it’s expected to cost about $68 million, according to the newspaper.

The base also installed a solar system atop its on-base shopping center and plans to add an additional 5 to 10 megawatts of rooftop solar on other buildings.

Other energy-efficient measures include the installation of high-efficiency bulbs, which has cut the base’s electricity use in half. The base also plans to air condition most of the base with 500 gallons of recycled water chilled naturally underground overnight.

Luke officials hope a training facility under construction will receive a Platinum LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Military installations across the nation are working towards meeting the Defense Department’s goal to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. The DOD accounts for nearly 80 percent of the U.S. government’s energy consumption and has an annual energy budget of roughly $20 billion.

Other solar projects in Arizona include one as big as 20 megawatts at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, which already powers its military housing with a 6-megawatt solar power system, according to the article.

The Soaring Heights Community at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is expected to become the largest solar-powered community in the continental U.S., boosting Arizona’s use of renewable energy by 15 percent and producing about 10 million kilowatt hours annually.

The military also is working on solar projects outside of Arizona. As an example, the U.S. Army is developing a 500-megawatt solar power generation plant in Fort Irwin, California, that will help power the base and reduce power supply disruptions.

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