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Concentrating Solar Power

Acciona, Clark Energy to develop U.S. Army’s largest solar plant

The U.S. Army is required to generate 25 percent of its
energy from renewable technologies such as this parabolic trough by 2025. D.O.E. Photo

The United States Army has selected Spain’s Acciona Solar Power and Virginia-Clark Energy Group to develop its largest solar energy project at its Fort Irwin military complex in the Mojave Desert, California.

Acciona and Clark Energy will install approximately 500 megawatts of solar power at Fort Irwin, a figure that could later be increased to 1,000 MW. Fort Irwin is the Army’s largest training ground and also houses N.A.S.A.’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.

Construction of the solar facilities will take place in several phases. By 2015, the first site development would be able to cover the base’s total energy needs.

The solar facilities, which will utilize both concentrating solar power and photovoltaic technology, will be installed at five sites in the complex and is expected to produce approximately 1,000 gigawatt-hours annually, exceeding Fort Irwin’s 35-MW peak load.

Any excess electricity produced by the solar facilities will be sold to regional public utilities via two high-power transmission lines in the vicinity of Fort Irwin.

Studies are being conducted to identify the most suitable and efficient technological solutions.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $2 billion, to be shouldered by both Acciona and Clark Energy. Both companies will provide services in kind, such as operation and maintenance, in exchange for the lease of military land holdings.

The Fort Irwin project is part of the Army’s Enhanced Use Leasing program, which is said to allow private sector entities to “acquire and leverage value from under-utilized non-excess real estate assets on Army and select Department of Defense Installations.”

Richard Kidd, a high-ranking official of the Department of Energy, told the New York Times, “Quite frankly, the Department of Defense was a little bit late coming to the topic of efficiency and renewables, but now it’s at the forefront.”

A federal mandate requires the Army to reduce its energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015 and generate 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

To help meet these goals, the Army has also installed a 14-MW solar plant at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and a 2-MW solar energy system at Fort Carson, Colorado.

-   Natassia Y. Laforteza

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