Just one year after the idea was introduced, Fort Huachuca and partnering organizations broke ground on the Department of Defense's largest renewable energy project April 25 adjacent to the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre, to mark the construction of the new Solar Array Park scheduled to begin operation by the end of the year.
At its completion, the new solar array park will provide about 25 percent of the Fort's electricity requirement and will save 58,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. It is scheduled to begin operation by the end of the year covering approximately 68 acres and featuring 70,000 4-foot by 6-foot panels.
During his opening remarks, Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, outlined previous environmental projects on the fort which are part of the long term plan to become Net Zero by 2025.
"Today marks another achievement in Fort Huachuca's ongoing environmental initiatives," Ashley said. "This project will help meet the Army goal of obtaining 7.5 percent renewable energy generation and the project actually has the capacity to generate enough energy for twice that [which] is required for residents on post."
The Fort Huachuca Renewable Energy Project is a joint effort between the U.S. Army Energy Initiatives Task Force, or EITF, Fort Huachuca, General Services Administration, or GSA, Tucson Electric Power, or TEP, and developer E.ON Climate & Renewables.
Including Ashley, eight dignitaries from the partnering organizations attended the event as guest speakers: Honorable Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment); Honorable Ron Barber, Arizona Congressman; Amanda Simpson, EITF executive director; Ruth Cox, GSA regional administrator; David Hutchens, TEP president; Steve Trenholm, E.ON Climate and Renewables president; and Greg Kuhr, Director of Facilities and Logistics, U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
Hammack explained that TEP is the financial source for the $40 million budget.
"Tucson Electric Power has a commitment to renewable energy and by working with the Army they get the equivalent of 20 smaller projects done in one contract," she said.
"We have land that is not in excess to military needs, but is available for alternative purposes. This land was used many times for different purposes -- an obstacle course in World War II, at a time there were barracks on this land, and now it is going to be renewable energy," Hammack continued. "At no cost to the Army, Tucson Electric is financing, installing, and operating this project."
Hutchens added that TEP is financing the project just as they would any other investment they make.
"We will end up owning, operating and maintaining the system and the output will go to the fort," he said.
Since 1877 Fort Huachuca has been sustaining the land it defends and continues to be a leader in environmental stewardship in southeast Arizona, the Army and the DoD. The installation's strong partnerships with local, state and federal agencies, municipalities, academia and business leaders allow it to integrate environmental concerns into business practices on a daily basis.
"One of the interesting things about [Fort] Huachuca is the location and the pristine environment that we are in. For us to be the first in DoD to have such a large solar array is critical and will also draw attention to the post at a national level," Ashley said during a media roundtable event that followed the ceremony.
"One of the best kept secrets in DoD is Fort Huachuca and its one of the best kept secrets that we don't necessarily want to keep. We want to be able to share the training opportunities and what we are able to do for the Army and the joint war fight, as well as our interagency partners," he continued. "We're very excited about this project, we're excited about the attention that it will garner, and we are equally as excited about what we are able to do in terms of the environment and being a responsible steward of resources here in Arizona."
For more information on the U.S. Army's Energy Initiatives Task Force and Fort Huachuca, visit www.armyeitf.com and www.army.mil/huachuca.