Military Embedded Systems

Army's largest PV system to help provide $900k+ savings annually thanks to silicon technology


January 18, 2013

Brandon Lewis

Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

Army's largest PV system to help provide $900k+ savings annually thanks to silicon technology

WHITE SANDS, NM. The U.S. Army’s largest solar Photovoltaic (PV) system has been dedicated at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range. Utilizing nearly 15,500 panels, the $16.8 million, 4.1 MW system spans over 42 acres. Developed in a collaboration between the Huntsville Center, Siemens Government Technologies, Bostonia, and the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, the system is the world's largest low-concentration PV facility.

Projected to provide around 10 percent of the White Sands facility’s electricity and save approximately $930,000 annually, the power plant uses a ground-mounted tracking system technology from Solaria Corporation that improves overall energy yield by as much as 30 percent over fixed systems. In addition to levying more kiloWatt hours (kWhs) per day, the silicon cells within Solaria’s crystal silicone panels are singulated and reassembled into a parallel design, limiting the number of expensive silicon cells needed and making the wavy glass panels extremely strong. Combined, these features can reduce panel expenses by as much as 70 percent, and make energy production costs 10-15 percent cheaper than standard PV systems.

Under a 25-year contract, Siemens Government Technologies will assume the maintenance and operations responsibilities of the facility, and sell all generated energy to the Army at the rate currently being paid to a local utility company. Though the Army made no capital investments in the project, to comply with federal renewable energy mandates, it will retain the associated Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). The project comes as part of a White House directive mandating that federal agencies to make $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next year through Energy Savings Performance Contracts.

Garrison Commander Colonel Leo Pullar commented on the system, “This project illustrates the U.S. Army’s commitment to going green, our focus on operating on net zero energy, and doing what we can to help protect the environment.”


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