Executive Insight, Policy & Regulation

White Sands Missile Range opens U.S. Army’s biggest solar energy system

The U.S. Army dedicated its largest solar photovoltaic system at White Sands Missile Range in a ceremony led by Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, White Sands commander, joined by Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment.

Developed in coordination with the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Ala., Siemens Government Technologies, Inc. and Bostonia, the more than 4 MW White Sands Missile Range solar energy system will generate about 10 million kWh of clean electricity annually, and provide an estimated annual savings of $930,000.

Complemented by a 375 kW solar carport, the solar array deployed at White Sands will supply about 10 percent of the total power used at the installation and reduce carbon emissions by 7,400 tons per year.

Featuring Solaria’s proprietary technology, the 4.1 MW ground-mounted tracking system is also the world’s largest low-concentration photovoltaic solar power plant.

Construction of the solar power plant began in April 2012 and was completed in December 2012. The ground-mounted single-axis Solaria tracking system follows the sun across the sky, increasing energy yield by up to 30 percent over fixed systems. All energy generated from the project will be consumed by onsite operations.

The $16.8 million solar PV system was the primary component of an energy savings performance contract implemented by the building technologies division of Siemens Industry Inc. Under the contract task order, Siemens will maintain and operate the equipment and will sell the energy it generates to White Sands Missile Range at the same rate they are currently paying the local utility company.

The Army will own the renewable energy credits, or RECs, and use them toward meeting federal renewable energy mandates.

The project supports President Barack Obama’s directive that federal agencies use Energy Savings Performance Contracts to make $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next year, as well as supporting the Army’s renewable energy goals.