DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate Dugway's solar array is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 4, at 10 a.m. The array, which began operations on Feb. 10 of this year and will brings flexibility to the post's energy needs by converting sunlight into energy.

Along with ceremony, there is additional good news. Don Smith, Dugway's garrison manager, confirmed yesterday plans for a second solar array, which will be built closer to the West Desert Test Center, about 20 miles west of English Village. This will ensure that Dugway remains on target to meet the Department of Defense's renewable energy goal of 25 percent by 2025."

Smith said this second array is expected to create an additional three-megawatts of energy, which will more than double the installations current output of solar power.

"Not only are we on track to meet the Army's goal, but we are acting as good neighbors with the State of Utah," Smith said. "We will be able to shave of a portion of Rocky Mountain Power's output during its peak hours, which will benefit everyone."

The first array, a 7.7 million dollar construction, is located in English Village and is vital for the Army's mission. With more than 7,000 solar panels on 10 acres of land, the array is already saving money for the installation. Costs for the second array have not been finalized.

The Sun is a solid powerhouse, it generates about 10 decillion (that's a 1 followed by 34 zeroes) joules of energy per year. But weather here also confirms the Sun's energy is easily available.

Nestled in the West Desert of Utah, Dugway is the perfect place to locate the two solar arrays. Sunny skies prevail most of the year with about 65 to 75 percent sunshine days during the spring, summer, and fall. In winter, 50 percent of the days are sunlit.

"With the aging infrastructure of the commercial power grid it became critical that we find an alternate method to ensure an uninterrupted power source," Smith said.

The English Village two-megawatt solar cells array will generate about 3,990 megawatt-hours of power annually, which at about 10 percent of Dugway's electric power will be enough to power 350 homes.

The life of the arrays will likely exceed 30-plus years, "making Dugway's power capability more secure and independent. A goal that accurately matches the Army's objective," Smith added.

Solar arrays are part of the Army's energy modernization program and a positive step toward a Net Zero facility. Net Zero means that the installation has reduced its energy use by better efficiency, energy recovery, and creating openings to offset the remaining demand with renewable energy.

"The eventual goal is to produce as much renewable energy onsite as Dugway would use over the course of a year," Smith noted and adding the source of solar power would make a measurable contribution to Dugway's energy requirements.

Renewable energy is also a particular urgency for the Army.

"Energy security underwrites our unique ability to rapidly deploy, employ and sustain military forces around the globe," said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment in a press release. "It's for this reason that the Army is moving toward building resilience into our installations."

In support this effort, the Office of the Secretary of Defense provided additional funding for Dugway's Micro Grid Control System in 2014.

To understand why this is critical means knowing how a power grid works with a micro grid. The grid connects the administrative and community buildings and homes to a central power source, which allows the use of appliances, heating cooling systems and electronics.

Being interconnected can also mean that when part of the grid needs to be repaired, or when a big storm creates a power outage, everyone is in the dark. But with the array's micro grid in place, Dugway will be able to operate on stored energy, until the power is restored.

Ensuring the housing and test center stays connected, a second array that meets the Department of Defenses' overall larger renewable energy target of by 2025, and saves some of Utah's power supply -- now that's really something to celebrate!