The future of readiness and resilience is solar.
Officials symbolically broke ground at the Community Activity Field June 3 on a renewable energy solar project designed to bolster Redstone Arsenal’s energy security. The 10 megawatt solar power system, which will be located on approximately 66 acres off Redstone Road, is expected to be operational by December.
“We have to be prepared,” said Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, energy and sustainability. “We have to build resilient installations. Energy is the key to all that the Army does. Disruptions in our supply either on the battlefield or here on our installations in the United States undermine our mission capabilities and represent a strategic vulnerability. We know that the bad guys are going to take advantage of this vulnerability. That’s why it’s so important that the Army must have confidence in our energy supplies and that we have the security and resiliency we need to perform our mission.”
Kidd cited three reasons for the renewable energy project – first and foremost energy security, followed by cost and federal mandates. The April 27, 2011, tornadoes, which left the installation without power for nine days, highlighted vulnerabilities in Redstone’s power supply. The impact of such an outage has the potential to not only be felt here in Alabama, but on a global scale as well, as many of the installation’s tenants have missions that not only span the globe, but into space as well.
“They cannot be without power. They cannot be left to rely on backup generators. Projects like this get us to the path where we have assured energy security,” said Garrison Commander Col. Bill Marks.
The project, developed by Redstone Arsenal's Directorate of Public Works, the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville's Energy Division, is the first power purchase agreement project solicited through a renewable and alternative energy Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC) awarded by Huntsville Center. The Army’s third large-scale renewable energy project on Alabama installations involves a 27-year Renewable Energy Services Agreement and lease with SunPower, which will manufacture, design, install and operate the system.
Under the power purchase agreement, SunPower will annually deliver approximately 18,000 megawatt hours of electricity to the Army - enough energy to power about 1,650 homes per year. Once the facility is installed and operating at 100 percent, the installation will purchase the electricity produced at a rate equal to or less than current and projected utility rates, according to Bill Kelly, SunPower’s vice president of Commercial Americas. The solar plant is also being designed as micro-grid ready so it may be connected to a future micro-grid and thereby contribute to the overall energy security of the installation.
Marks, Kidd, Kelly, Maj. Gen. Ted Harrison, director of operations, assistant chief of staff for Installation Management; David Williams, chief, energy programs integration, Corps of Engineers; and Michael McGhee, executive director, Army Office of Energy Initiatives, all provided remarks for the groundbreaking. More than just a construction project, Friday’s ceremony represents a change in the way the Army and the entire nation is looking at energy.
“Our country’s energy system is undergoing major transformation,” Kidd said. “It’s important that the Army and state of Alabama be part of that.”
Note: This article includes additional project information provided by the Huntsville Center Public Affairs Office.