US Air Force Academy installs six MW solar plant

14. June 2011 | Applications & Installations, Markets & Trends | By:  Jonathan Gifford

The United States military has announced the completion of a photovoltaic installation at a facility in Colorado, in partnership with Colorado Springs Utilities and SunPower Corp.

Photo of air force cadets throwing their hats in the air at graduation.

6 MW photovoltaic plant installed as part of the Air Force Academy's plans for 100 percent energy self-sufficiency. Image: Flickr: Beverly & Pack.

The project was opened in a ceremony yesterday (Monday) with the six megawatt (MW) plant being installed as a part of a plan by the US Air Force Academy to generate 100 percent of its electricity requirements on-base from renewable energy sources. The project was funded in part by the federal government stimulus scheme, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. SunPower and the Air Force Academy will each own 50 percent of the renewable energy credits generated by the system.

The installation uses SunPower solar panels utilizing the T0 Tracker System. This system aims to increase sunlight capture by up to 25 percent and reduce the amount of area required for the installation. "The impact of [the] tracking technology [is that it] delivery the best economics using the least amount of land possible," said SunPower’s Jim Pape in a statement.

SunPower has worked with federal agencies in 1999 and has more than 40 MW of installed capacity or under contract at government facilities, including the Washington DC headquarters of the US Department of Energy.

According to US Environmental Protection Agency, the Air Force Academy system is estimated to reduce green house emissions by 9,400 tons a year or the equivalent of removing 40,900 cars over 25 years. Colorado Springs Utilities’ Jerry Fote said that the installation has benefited the local community. "For the next 30 years or more, we are confident the system will dependably generate clean, renewable solar power," he said.

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