Officials cut the ribbon at Fort Benning's solar facility

By Desiree DillehayJune 8, 2016

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Congressman Sanford Bishop, left, Brig. Gen. Eric Wesley, the commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and the Honorable Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment prepare to cut the ri... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BENNING, Ga., (June 8, 2016) -- Celebrating the Army's largest solar renewable energy project to date, military, government and Georgia business leaders gathered June 1 to cut the ribbon at Fort Benning's Solar Array Site.

"This is indeed a celebration, and it is a celebration of the operation of this 30-megawatt renewable energy project. It's a huge success story for the Army, for the Department of Defense, Georgia Power and the state of Georgia," said the Honorable Katherine G. Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment.

"Without energy, the Army stands still and silent. Energy supply shortfalls or power distribution failures can impede our mission. And so in order to ensure that we have effective missions, we must have assured access to energy." Hammack added. "The Army has an energy security and sustainability strategy, or ES2, which envisions a ready and resilient Army strengthened by secure access to critical resources."

The project at Fort Benning is important for three reasons: military readiness, energy consumption and national leadership, said Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Jr., representative for Georgia's 2nd Congressional District.

"The ability to generate renewable power on base can help the resilience of both the military and the civilian national grid," said Bishop. "And so broadening our nation's access to clean and renewable energy will not only improve our national security by increasing our energy reserves, but also continue to lessen our dependence on foreign resources."

The 216-acre solar site features 133,950 solar panels, is 30 megawatts in size, and uses alternating current and photovoltaic panels to produce energy for the state's electric grid.

"We've been able to get about 17 million kilowatt hours of energy just here for Fort Benning. And over the next year that will translate into 64 million kilowatt hours, and that will be about 17 percent of our power that we use on Fort Benning at no extra cost to the Army," said Brig. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence.

The project has been under test and operations for four months and is exceeding expectations. It is producing 3 percent more energy than planned, said Hammack.

"This solar facility represents a $70 million investment on this installation. Along with the four other military installations, Fort Gordon, Fort Stewart, Kings Bay Naval Base and Marine Corps Logistics Base, we will have invested over $400 million in renewable generation on these bases (for) our customers," said William "Norrie" McKenzie, vice president of renewable development at Georgia Power. "It's a 35-year investment for the base, for the community, for our customers, for the great state of Georgia and for this great nation."

The Fort Benning solar facility is the first to go operational of the three separate Georgia Power solar projects currently in development on Georgia Army bases. These projects are collectively referred to as the Georgia 3x30 project.

The other two projects at Fort Gordon and Fort Stewart are expected to be complete by the end of 2016, said McKenzie. He added that the renewable energy project at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay is expected to also be complete by the end of 2016, and a fifth project at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany is projected to be online in the first quarter of 2017.