Solar on the rise at US military bases

With sights trained on a target of 3 GW of installed and deployed renewable energy by 2025, U.S. military bases appear on course for a direct hit, having increased clean energy capacity by 43 in the past few years.

Since the introduction of the Obama administration policy in 2010, the number of military bases boasting renewable energy projects has grown from 454 to 700 in 2012, and is expanding on an almost daily basis.

Overall, as of 2013 the Defense Department could call upon 384 MW of renewable energy capacity, with the lion’s share – 45% – being generated from a monolithic geothermal energy plant located at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California.

However, solar power is securely in second place in terms of installed capacity, and is also the most popular type of installation in terms of numbers. The U.S. military generates 125.5 MW of solar power a year, thanks to its 25-year partnership with solar company SunEdison — which is currently in the process of building a 14 MW solar array at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in the state of Arizona; and continuned collaboration with SunPower —which has installed 39 MW (31%) of PV capacity for the military.

This installation – forecast to save the army an estimated $500,000 annually – is just one of a number of planned solar power projects in the pipeline for the U.S. military. Early estimates suggest that the Defense Department will add almost 1.4 GW of renewable energy over the next two to five years, of which solar power will account for 68% based on current projections.

In the nearer term, finds energy consulting firm Navigant, an additional 320 MW of renewable power will be added within the next 24 months. Once again, solar PV will lead the charge, with 64% of the overall capacity, compared to 20% for wind energy and 9% for biomass projects.