Nellis activates Nations largest PV Array

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Whitney
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Force celebrated the completion of North America's largest solar photovoltaic system with a ceremony at Nellis AFB, Dec. 17.

The PV array, completed earlier this month, will supply Nellis with more than 30 million kilowatt-hours of clean, environmentally friendly electricity a year. The array is expected to supply the base with more than 25 percent of the total power used by the base population, roughly 12,000 people.

"Nellis, the 'Home of the Fighter Pilot,' is now home to the largest solar electric plant in all of North America," said Col. Michael Bartley, 99th Air Base Wing commander. "Our base and indeed our entire nation will benefit from the predictable, secure supply of clean energy that this landmark power plant is now generating."

The solar array, which has been in planning for three years and under construction since April 2007, is a public-private partnership between the Air Force, Sunpower Corporation, Nevada Power Company and MMA Renewable Ventures, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage and Equity.

"This solar project at Nellis is a first step of many toward making renewable electricity integral to the operations of the U.S. Air Force," said Mr. William Anderson, assistant secretary, United States Air Force Installations, Environment and Logistics. "As the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, the Air Force is well-positioned to promote both solar technology and new approaches to its implementation. This pioneering initiative is a good example of how a creative approach to public-private partnership can make our energy supply more sustainable, more secure and more affordable."

More than 72,000 solar panels, which contain nearly 6 million solar cells, were constructed by Sunpower Corp. on 140 acres of Nellis land. Many of the panels, which track the sun across the sky, were constructed on top of a capped landfill.

"The land that the array was built on has limited uses because it is a capped landfill and we are restricted on what we can use it for," said Colonel Bartley. "With this array, we are able to maximize the land in a cost-effective manner, land that could potentially remain vacant for years to come."

The plant is estimated to save the Air Force $1 million annually and should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 24,000 tons annually, which is equivalent to removing 185,000 cars from the roadways. This is one of the largest of the Air Force's "green" initiatives to date, with many more projects being planned, said Secretary Anderson.

Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons noted that clean energy projects like this have the potential to reduce United States dependence on foreign and nonrenewable energy sources.

"Nellis is now generating 14 megawatts of clean, renewable energy--energy that meets the demands and the needs of Nellis AFB," Governor Gibbons continued. "More importantly, its meeting the future. It's demonstrating that we can use the abundant renewable resource of solar energy in the United States."