U.S. Army Installs the Largest Low-Concentration Solar Photovoltaic System in the World

by , 01/18/13

This week, the US Army dedicated the world’s largest low-concentration solar photovoltaic installation on its White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The installation will generate 10 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity and reduce carbon emissions by 7400 tons each year while saving the institution around $930,000 a year. “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,” boasts Garrison Commander Col. Leo Puller.

At 4.1 megawatts, the White Sands system easily surpasses the previous low-concentration solar power world-record holder, a 2 megawatt installation in Puglia, Italy that went online last spring. Though low-concentration solar photovoltaic systems aren’t as efficient as high-concentration systems, they make sense when real-estate is plentiful and cheap as it is at the White Sands Missile Range. The $16.8 million system that includes a 375 kW solar carport, covers a mere 42 acres of the 2 million acres on the missile range.

Even though the solar modules themselves are low-concentration, they are made more efficient by proprietary STS-Azimuth trackers developed by the Solaria Corporation. The trackers enable each module to continuously adjust to the most advantageous angle and allow it to rotate instead of just tilt like most horizontal trackers. According to Solaria, the STS-Azimuth tracker yields an increase of 30% in the energy generated over a fixed system.

This record-breaking solar photovoltaic project cost the Army nothing up front because it was done through a power purchase agreement. The Army didn’t pay for the solar modules or for their installation, they just provided the land and committed to purchase the power generated for the same rate as they are currently paying the utility company. Siemens, Inc. built the system, and will operate it and maintain it. The system is actually owned by Bostonia Bank who financed it in partnership with the Army Corp of Engineers. The power purchase agreement is for 25 years.

+ U.S. Army

Via Clean Technica

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1 Comment

  1. elarue January 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I’m gratified that solar energy is gaining a foothold, but I just wish that the largest use were for a peacetime initiative. I would hate for the argument for solar to be seen as valid to save energy on war initiatives, but to be dismissed for peaceful initiatives as not generating some return on investment or some other stupid argument.

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