Corps of Engineers saves Army money through solar power

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is increasing mission effectiveness through energy efficiency.

To assist the Army in meeting its sustainability goals, the Corps has assisted the largest military installation in the United States, White Sands Missile Range, in southern New Mexico, with the installation of the U.S. Army’s largest solar photovoltaic power plant.

Through a unique public-private partnership that combined funding from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Energy Savings Performance Contract , or ESPC, solar technology from Solaria Corporation, financing by Bostonia Bank, LLC., and project development by Siemens USA, the White Sands solar project will be able to provide over four megawatts of electricity to the base, enough to provide 10 percent of the installation’s electricity requirements and generate an estimated annual savings of $930,010.

The $16 million system, which uses a solar tracking system to maximize solar electrical generation by following the path of the sun, is owned by Bostonia Bank and operated by Siemens USA, will sell power to White Sands Missile Range at a fixed rate for the next 25 years.

Third-party ownership through an Energy Services Agreement, or ESA, allowed for a tax grant that reduced the project cost by $6.1 million. Through the ESA, a third party owns, operates and maintains the power generation system and provides electricity to the customer.

Finding ways to reduce the cost of operating facilities and executing missions is important, especially in the current fiscal environment, said Michael Norton, Huntsville Center Energy Division chief.

“Projects like this are important because the impact of rising energy prices on installations has resulted in an adverse increase of utility budgets spent on existing, often inefficient or outdated equipment,” said Norton in an Army press release.

The solar power system at the White Sands Missile Range will reduce CO2 emissions by 7,400 tons annually, equivalent to planting 188,000 trees or removing over 1,500 cars from roadways. This successful public-private sector project will reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources while supporting our national defense.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers strives to protect, sustain, and improve the natural and man-
made environment of our nation, and is committed to compliance with applicable environmental and energy statutes, regulations, and executive orders. Sustainability is not only part of the Corps’ decision processes, but is also part of its culture.