By Megan Locke Simpson, Fort Campbell CourierSeptember 28, 2015
FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky -- Fort Campbell officials marked a huge accomplishment in renewable energy with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Phase One of the installation's solar array, Sept. 21, 2015.
With Phase One of the 5-megawatt solar array completed and now operational, Fort Campbell is taking a major step toward achieving goals outlined in the installation's renewable energy plan. The plan, which considers alternate forms of energy such as solar, biomass and gasification, is designed to meet the directives outlined in the American Renewable Energy Act. The legislation requires federal installations to obtain 25 percent of their energy by renewable means by 2025.
"Now this is truly a significant milestone as we move toward achieving that and implementing a total renewable energy plan," said Garrison Commander Col. Rob Salome. "But it's not just about making power. It's about making a difference that will be felt for many years. In addition to this being a renewable energy source, this project will save about 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually."
Construction on the largest solar array in Kentucky began in May. The system officially went on "the grid" Friday, according to Garrison Energy Manager Rick McCoy.
"We did some serious checkout last week … Sure enough, the transformer was humming and the meters are turning and everything is working the way we would expect it to," he said. "Almost right down to the calculated value, so it really worked [well]."
McCoy said the solar power is one of the most cost-effective ways to bring renewable energy options to Fort Campbell. Other options, such as hydro and wind, are not as feasible here.
The plan is to operate the solar array continually for three weeks so that the Directorate of Public Works can see it in action.
"We're thinking past this," McCoy said. "We've got actually more landfill on the other side of those trees. A footprint big enough to probably put another 3 to 5 megawatts. We're not going to limit ourselves. We'll see how this works."
Even with cloudy skies on Friday, the solar array still generated some 1.5 megawatts of power, McCoy said.
"Right now, it's great," he said. "We're making energy at the time of the day when we need it the most."
Phase One of the project, which sits on a landfill capped in the 1980s that is now topped with thousands of solar panels, will provide up to 1.9-megawatts of energy to the installation. The completion of Phase Two will fulfill the full 5-megawatt plan.
"When Phase Two is completed [in] 2016, it will produce enough energy to power 463 homes here on Fort Campbell, which is really quite an accomplishment," Salome said.
The two-phase plan is the culmination of a planning process that began in 2012. Phase One was made possible by a $3.1 million grant awarded by the State of Kentucky to Fort Campbell and Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. Fort Campbell and PRECC established a 10-year utility services contract to qualify for the grant.
Phase Two of the project will be funded through an $800,000 grant provided by the Department of Energy's Federal Emergency Management Program and involves a 27-year power purchase agreement. This project is supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
"The construction of this solar array is a cooperative effort, and it presents a great example of intergovernmental and interagency cooperation in partnering together to achieve greater energy efficiencies for our future," Salome said.
"This project is yet another example of progress and gaining efficiency through renewable energy. We're thrilled to have the amazing support of our partners to make the solar array possible."
Phase Two, which will be located in the same general array as the first addition, is scheduled to begin in April 2016. McCoy said future plans call for another 5-megawatt solar array on the Tennessee side of Fort Campbell.