FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 17, 2016) -- Fort Rucker and Army leaders gathered at the site of a renewable energy groundbreaking as the installation moved forward with the service's sustainability initiatives.

Among those to take part in the groundbreaking were Russell B. Hall, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general; Col. Shannon T. Miller, Fort Rucker garrison commander; David Williams, Energy Programs Integration U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chief; Susan Damour, General Services Administration Rocky Mountain Region regional administrator; Zeke Smith, Alabama Power Company external affairs executive vice president; and Chip Beeker and Jeremy Oden, Alabama Public Service commissioners, who all welcomed the addition to the installation during the ceremony June 2.

"Today marks a great step forward in our efforts to stay energy efficient," said Hall during the ceremony. "We are very proud to partner with Alabama Power to help us in our endeavor to meet the Army's mandates for renewable energy and guidelines for enhancing energy security in the future."

The 10-megawatt solar array will provide Fort Rucker with about 16 percent of its energy consumption, which furthers the installation's Net Zero goals and reduces Fort Rucker's carbon footprint by fostering sustainability in the community, he added. The facility will generate enough energy to power about 1,600 homes per year.

"It's very important that we increase our capability, increase our diversity of energy awareness and ensure that we are maintaining our flexibility to provide national defense," said Hall. "This project is the first step to ensure the continuity of ongoing operations in support of the mission right here at Fort Rucker."

"This is truly a great success story for Fort Rucker, the Army, Alabama Power and the state of Alabama," added Michael McGhee, Army Office of Energy Initiatives executive director. "Renewable energy produced on Army installations increases resilience through energy security, which is essential to mission effectiveness."

McGhee said that energy shortfalls and power distribution failures increase the risk to Army mission, and in order to have an effective force, the Army must have confidence to be able to accomplish any mission.

"Bringing increased resiliency to the regional power grid that Fort Rucker relies on improves the base security posture, helping to reduce the risk to the Army mission," he said. "The Army's Energy Security and Sustainability Strategy envisions a ready and resilience Army strengthened by secure access to critical resources."

Ensuring access is the first step to energy security at the installation level, said McGhee, and the key to assuring that access is by diversifying and expanding that energy resource supply.

"If you consider the energy it takes to operate all of the federal government's facilities, the majority of that energy is used by the Department of Defense, and of the Department of Defense's share, the Army uses 35 percent of that, making Army facilities the largest consumers of electricity in the federal government," he said. "Last year alone, the Army spent over $1.3 billion on facilities energy, and each of the military services has made a commitment of deploying one gigawatt each of renewable energy on our installation by the year 2025, and this project will help us reach that target."

Hall said the solar array includes a design plan for a microgrid-compatible renewable energy generating facility that's directly connected to the electric distribution system on Fort Rucker, and although the groundbreaking is a big deal, it's only the beginning.

"This is the first of our projects … because I think we can increase from 16 percent to 32- or even as must as 45-percent capability in our local design capability," he said.

Additionally, although the array is housed on Fort Rucker, the Alabama Power Company will develop, finance, design, install, own, operate and maintain the project, which comes at no cost to taxpayers.

But it isn't just about saving money, according to Williams.

"At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we do a lot of support to the Army and other federal agencies in a number of areas, but we are extremely proud that we are on the forefront in helping the Army and our installations with our energy initiatives," said Williams. "What we see here today is the beginning, not just for Fort Rucker, but for the Army as a whole. We have goals and mandates, but we're not just doing it because of those mandates -- we're doing it because it's the right thing to do for Fort Rucker, for our Army and for our nation."