October 16, 2009--As the result of a memorandum of understanding signed this week, ACCIONA Solar Power and the Clark Energy Group will develop a large-scale solar energy project--the first phase, consisting of five sites that total 500MW--at Fort Irwin in California's Mojave Desert. The base is the U.S. Army’s largest training ground and also houses NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications center. The project will involve concentrating solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic technology, and is the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) largest-ever solar project. To date, the 14MW solar plant at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and the 2MW installation at Fort Carson, Colorado are the DoD's largest solar power generating plants.
A federal mandate requires the U.S. Army to reduce its energy consumption by 30% by 2015 (compared to 2003) and to cover 25% of its energy needs with renewable energies by 2025.
The Fort Irwin project is part of the Army’s “Enhanced Use Leasing” (EUL) program, designed to allow private sector entities “to acquire and leverage value from under-utilized non-excess real estate assets on Army and select Department of Defense Installations.”?
ACCIONA Solar Power and Clark Energy Group’s joint-project will develop approximately 500MW of solar power, which could be increased in the future to 1,000MW. The five sites total 5,600 hectares, and are expected to produce approximately 1,000GWh annually, far exceeding Fort Irwin’s 35MW peak load.
“Quite frankly, the Department of Defense was a little bit late coming to the topic of efficiency and renewables, but now it’s at the forefront,” said Richard Kidd, a high-ranking official at the U.S. Department of Energy, in a recent statement to the New York Times.
The project is at an initial stage and studies are being carried out to identify the most suitable and efficient technological solutions. Construction will be staggered in several phases: by 2014, the first site development should be sufficiently advanced to cover Fort Irwin’s total energy needs. In accordance with EUL requirements, the project will be financed and developed by both companies (costs are expected to come to approximately $2 billion ), who will deliver services such as operation and maintenance in exchange for the lease of military land holdings.
Any excess electricity produced can be sold to the grid, via two high-power transmission lines in the vicinity of Fort Irwin.