The White Sands Missile Range Solar Array and solar carport have been running for three years and have already saved the installation over $2 million in energy costs.
When constructed in 2012, the array was expected to provide an annual cost avoidance of $875,000 and 30,000 million British Thermal Units of energy per year. On average the array has saved $857,000 per year and 28,500 million BTUs per year. Though the amount of energy the array produces is smaller than originally anticipated, the cost-savings aspect has proven the solar energy’s worth.
“Overall it has been very successful. I’ve been monitoring it. They’ve fallen a little short on (BTUs) but they’ve met the savings amount,” said WSMR Garrison Energy Manager Craig Collins.
In 2012 solar energy saved the installation $615,000, pro-rated to when it began in the second quarter, in 2013 the cost savings reached $848,000 and $857,000 in 2014. Collins said the solar array and the carport have met all expectations and he and his team plan to expand the array by an additional four MW, which would mean an additional 15,000 panels in what is currently a 42-acre stretch of solar panels. He said he also hopes to build new carports in parking lots off of Headquarters Avenue.
“It’s still ongoing, it’s still a couple of years out…not any time soon,” Collins said.
In 2012 the installation repurposed their relation with SIEMENS, a global electronics company, to create a sustainable energy site that could power not only the main post but nearby testing sites as well. Collins and his team had already been working with SIEMENS through an Energy Savings Performance contract where the company provided suggestions on energy saving projects like creating more efficient lighting, heating and cooling. The solar projects were funded through the ESP contract. Land clearing began in February 2012 and construction of the two sites began in July and ended in December. The two sustainable energy sites; the 42-acre ground-mounted solar array, and a solar carport that covers the Building 100 parking lot cost $16.8M to build, with a cost of $3.77 per W.
“What’s unique about this project is that when you break it down to cost per kilowatt we are paying the same amount we would be paying to El Paso Electric,” Collins said. “Normally with solar you have to pay more.”
The large solar panel contains 774 trackers, each containing 20 solar panels and produces 4.1 MW of energy. The solar panel carport not only serves as a sustainable energy site, producing 375 kW of energy but also cools vehicles during those hot summer days. In total, the sites produce 4.5 MW of energy, all of which is used to power the main post, Small Arms Range, Emery Site and the Hazardous Test Area. The carport also contains two charging stations for government vehicles that run on renewable energy. The Headquarters Building is able to run solely off of the energy provided by the solar carport, which qualifies it as a Net Zero energy building.
This is the largest amount of sustainable energy produced and consumed within the Army. The second largest renewable energy site in the Army is located in Fort Carson, Colorado, where two MW are produced. Fort Huachuca, Arizona, has an 18 MW solar array and Fort Stewart, Georgia, houses a 19 MW solar array. However, neither of those installations use their own power. WSMR’s solar array is the largest Army solar array that produces and consumes its own energy. Collins said the power generated provides about 12 percent of the installation’s energy. The rest of the energy is obtained through El Paso Electric.
“Though the projections have not been reached, it has been beneficial to the installation and the Army,” said Department of Public Works Chief Jose Gallegos. “Since the solar array has been operational, it has continually been able to provide a percentage of the main post’s power through a renewable source. In addition, the use of solar power has resulted in cost savings via “peak shaving”, i.e., reducing our peak demand.”
The two solar panel sites work off of a single access tracking system which tracks the sun from east to west. The tracking system allows the panels to obtain energy at a 50 percent increase. The request for sustainable energy came back in 2010 when then Installation Commander Brig. Gen. John Regan requested a sustainable energy site be constructed on WSMR.
Along with creating sustainable energy, the site also allows for the Army to save money through Renewable Energy Credits required through a federal mandate. The federal mandate requires that the Army meet a certain amount of REC per year. If the standard is not met the Army must then buy RECs from outside sources. The REC work almost like stocks and bonds. With the two sites, WSMR will produce 10,000 REC per year based on the amount of sustainable energy that is produced.
“It’s 10,000 less REC they have to worry about because we produce them in house,” Collins said.
In October 2014 Collins and his team were recognized for their achievements in energy efficiency and energy management for construction of the 4.5 MW ground-mounted solar photovoltaic power plant system, which included a solar carport. WSMR Garrison Commander Col. Brian Michelson and Collins accepted the award from the Honorable Katherine Hammack, the assistant Secretary of the Army, Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability, and Lt. Gen. David Halverson, assistant chief of staff for Installation Management during a ceremony at the Pentagon. “This solar project was a team effort from all of DPW. There were many players involved that made the project successful,” Collins said. A second solar project was also completed in December 2014 at the WSMR Aquatics Center. The team built a solar powered water heater that provides 35 percent of the energy needed to heat the pool. The annual cost avoidance on the project is $8,200.
He said after news spread of the solar array he received calls from as far out as the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba to ask how he and his team went about creating the solar farm and reducing their carbon footprint and electricity bill. Collins said White Sands Housing has also contacted him and is currently working to create a solar farm.