US Army goes solar

The US Army Corps of Engineers has selected Acciona Solar Power and the Clark Energy Group to develop a $2bn solar-energy plant at the Fort Irwin military complex.


The US Army Corps of Engineers has selected Acciona Solar Power and the Clark Energy Group to develop a $2bn (£1.2bn) solar-energy plant at the Fort Irwin military complex, located in the Mojave Desert, California.


The base is the US Army’s largest training ground and also houses NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Centre.


The announcement follows a competitive bid process opened in March by the US Army’s Senior Energy Council, a body created in October 2008 to accelerate and oversee a sustainable energy strategy aimed at finding alternative energy sources for US Army installations.


Together, Acciona and Clark Energy will develop a system that will deliver approximately 500MW of solar power, a figure that could be increased to 1000MW at a later stage. The project, which will involve concentrating solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic technology, is the US Department of Defense’s largest ever solar project.


To date, the 14MW solar plant at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and the 2MW installation at Fort Carson, Colorado, are the Department of Defense’s largest solar-power generating plants.


Construction will be staggered in several phases, but it is expected that by 2014, the installation, which will cover a 21-square-mile area, should provide all of Fort Irwin’s energy needs. Energy that is not used by the Fort Irwin complex will be sold to regional public utilities.


Fort Irwin is located in the Mojave Desert, one of the areas with the most hours of sunlight in the whole of the US, making the base an ideal site for solar generating technology.


The complex stands midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas at a location similar to the site of the 64MW Nevada Solar One concentrating solar power (CSP) facility, installed by Acciona Solar Power 82 miles south east of Las Vegas. Nevada Solar One was connected to the grid in June 2007.