California Company Helping Solarize U.S. Military

Plenty of sunshine and rooftops at Fort Bliss in West Texas | Photo: D'ohBoy/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The San Mateo-based photovoltaic company SolarCity, as part of its $1 billion "Solar Strong" project, announced today that it will be installing rooftop solar panels on military housing at New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range and the adjoining Fort Bliss in Texas. The installations are expected to provide more than half the electrical power used by each base by the time they're completed.

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SolarCity, which pioneered the rooftop solar leasing arrangement now wildly popular across the country, started its Solar Strong program with the intent to install 160,000 rooftop solar panels on military buildings across the country. Shortly thereafter scaled back to a target of 120,000 panels, the project has already installed PV panels at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, as well as at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Pearl Harbor in Oahu, and two Air Force bases in Colorado.

The project will eventually encompass more than 1,450 military bases in 33 states. At White Sands and Fort Bliss, Solar City will install PV panels on 4,700 houses managed by the housing company Balfour Beatty, for a total of 13.2 megawatts of generating capacity.

The U.S. military has long been interested in implementing renewable solutions to its energy needs, especially in the light of the threats a centralized supply chain of imported oil poses to national security. "We are moving closer to achieving our goal of reducing our carbon footprint and becoming completely self-sufficient in energy as an installation by 2018," said Major General Dana Pittard, Commanding General of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, in a press release. "Once complete, these solar arrays will resource the largest solar project in any housing area in our Army. The solar project will pay for itself through the installation's reduced utility bills."

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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