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Nellis Air Force Base solar power
Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons speaks to members of the media at the Nellis Air Force Base solar power system's ground breaking ceremony, April 23. The Nellis solar power plant, scheduled for completion late 2007. The array is the largest photo-voltaic project in North America. The power plant will produce approximately 15 megawatts of power and provide nearly 30 percent of the electricity demand on the base which employs 12,000 people. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jason Huddleston)
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Air Force takes step forward toward renewable energy

Posted 4/24/2007   Updated 4/24/2007 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Travis Edwards
Nellis AFB Public Affairs

4/24/2007 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.  -- The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of North America's largest solar photovoltaic power system began April 23 at Nellis Air Force Base.

Rated at about 15 megawatts, the array will supply the base with more than 25 percent of its energy during peak summer months.

Attending the ceremony were Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, William Anderson; Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons; and Col. Michael Bartley, 99th Air Base Wing commander, among many others.

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

Governor Gibbons 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 70,000 solar panels that will make up the array are expected to save Nellis more than $1 million in annual energy costs. The Nellis solar energy system, once operational, will generate 25 million kilowatt-hours of "clean" electricity for the base.

"This savings allows the Air Force to apply these funds toward higher priority mission requirements," said Colonel Bartley. "The array provides a semi-secure and independent power source - a capability other military installations will soon move to acquire ... as goes Nellis, so goes the Air Force."

"Nevada and the United States have the technology and natural resources to serve our growing power demand with clean, reliable renewable energy," said Nevada State Senator Harry Reid, in an official statement released April 23. "I congratulate the Air Force for their continued leadership on clean power."

The array will take up more than 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 other fixed-tilt systems.

"This is phase one of energy conservation for Nellis," said Mr. Anderson. "With the motivation and charge this Nellis team has, I wouldn't be surprised to see phase two of this in a few months."

The project is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

"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."

Colonel Byers said he is amazed at how quickly all the elements came together for this project. "From initial concept in March 2006 to ground break just a year later is an astonishing achievement."

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