A groundbreaking ceremony at the site of a capped landfill on Fort Campbell May 27 marked the next step in the Kentucky installation’s renewable energy plan.
The ceremony marked the beginning of construction of the largest solar array in Kentucky. The multi-million dollar project will install a ground-mounted solar panel system near the corner of Market Garden Road and Screaming Eagle Boulevard.
Once fully operational, the solar array will produce 5 megawatts of energy, or enough to power 463 homes. Preparation to install a solar array began in 2012 when Fort Campbell established a renewable energy plan. The reasoning for establishing such a plan came from directives set forth in the American Renewable Energy Act, which requires 25 percent of energy consumed by federal installations to be produced by renewable means by 2025.
This addition of renewable energy sources will lessen Fort Campbell’s reliance on coal-powered energy provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority. This change signals a positive impact in the years to come for the environment and future generations, said Garrison Energy Manager Rick McCoy.
“The fossil fuels and everything alone that we’re not burning and putting into the air makes this thing very attractive,” he said. “Not tearing down the mountains to get to coal … instead of your children looking down into a valley where the mountain used to be, they’ll be looking up at the mountain.”
Phase One of the project will provide approximately 1.9 megawatts of energy capable of “plugging in” directly into the Fort Campbell power grid, McCoy said. This phase should be complete sometime in September, depending on weather.
The project would not be a reality without the support of post leadership, particularly Garrison Commander Col. David “Buck” Dellinger, McCoy said, as well as a host of other partners. A $3.1 million grant awarded by the State of Kentucky to Fort Campbell and the Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. in December 2012 pushed the project forward. Fort Campbell applied for the grant after establishing a 10-year Utility Energy Services Contract with PRECC, which allows the electric cooperative to use the grant to pay for the solar array’s interconnection infrastructure.
“By some strokes of luck ... we stumbled upon this opportunity with the State of Kentucky,” McCoy said. “It was enough to get us started. Without that money, we wouldn’t be standing here today. Because it just would not have been economically feasible.”
“This project, with the help of the State of Kentucky – with their generous grant – it will pay for itself in 10 years.”
Fort Campbell received an additional $800,000 grant through the Department of Energy’s Federal Emergency Management Program to fund Phase Two of the solar array project. The funding is tied to a 27-year Power Purchase Agreement.
“It’s about doing the right thing,” Dellinger said. “This project is the result of many agencies, federal and state, working together.”
Other projects are now on the horizon as Fort Campbell aims to produce 20 megawatts of utility-grade renewable energy. Other possibilities include biogenic shale gas, biomass and waste energy.
“[Today marks] a new era of how we’re going to produce energy and how we’re going to have energy security on Fort Campbell,” Dellinger said.
“This is truly a significant milestone in the implementation of Fort Campbell’s plan. This project is not just about making power. It’s [about] making a difference that will be felt for many years. In addition to being a renewable energy source, this project will save 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Every time we make a choice like this, we’re making the environment cleaner. We’re giving cleaner air for our children and their children to breathe.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, is supporting the project. This solar array is one of many similar renewable energy projects at other military installations, including a $75 million solar panel farm being constructed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
This project also comes at a time when utility costs remain a major concern Armywide. The Army spends about $1.3 billion annually on these expenses, Lt. Gen. David D. Halverson said during an Association of the U.S. Army forum earlier this year.
McCoy said the full 5 megawatts provided by the solar array should be available by mid-2016, and the resulting energy will be used solely at Fort Campbell.
“The wonderful thing about solar is, in the summertime … it’s making the most energy at the time when you need it the most, because that’s when the air conditioners are coming on,” he said. “The hottest day of July, our demand hits somewhere between 60 and 65 megawatts.”
While this number reflects peak demand, McCoy said energy usage on weekends often falls between 30 and 35 megawatts.
This article originally appeared in the May 28 issue of the Fort Campbell Courier.
Huntsville Center's Utility Energy Services Contracting (UESC) and Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) programs are providing project management oversight in coordination with Fort Campbell for this solar project.