Solar and Wind Provide Renewable and Secure Energy to Fort Hood

Published by: Jennifer Hetzel | Published on: 15 Feb, 2018
Solar and Wind Provide Renewable and Secure Energy to Fort Hood

Written by Heather Ashley, News Editor, Fort Hood Sentinel
Published in the Greater Killeen Business Quarterly 2017 Annual Report & Economic Outlook Guide

Installation leaders, Army officials and project partners marked the occasion during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held June 2017 at the Phantom Solar field on West Fort Hood.

The hybrid project, which generates electricity from a 15-megawatt solar array at West Fort Hood and a 50-megawatt wind turbine project in West Texas, is the culmination of years of work to bring renewable, reliable energy to Fort Hood.

III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II said it is reassuring to have a project like this, “where you know that you are going to get reliable energy at all times.”

Sunlight and wind, both of which are needed for the project, are not in short supply in Texas, the General noted.

“The one thing you can bet on in Texas is the sun is always going to shine and the wind is always going to blow,” Funk said.

Brian Dosa Fort Hood director of Public Works, said renewable energy is not only good for the environment, but also for the Army, especially in these lean financial times.

This project will not only save millions of dollars off the cost of energy in the future at Fort Hood, but it came at no upfront cost to the Army.

“It’s going to save us by giving us lower utility rates locked in for the next 30 years,” Dosa said. “This year, we’re going to save about $1.5 million dollars on the cost of electricity here at Fort Hood.”

The 15-megawatt solar array on West Fort Hood consists of 63,000 solar panels covering 132 acres of land, equivalent to the size of 100 football fields, including end zones, Dosa explained.

The solar array generates electricity from the sun and is combined with the 50 megawatts worth of wind-generation, also constructed as part of this project out in West Texas, to provide electricity across the installation.

“That’s going to be about half the electricity on Fort Hood over the course of a year,” Dosa said.

The hybrid renewable energy project began about 4-and-a-half years ago with an idea that Fort Hood wanted to gain energy security and less dependence from the grid, Dosa said.

“Having an energy surety program to couple with this so we can use it anywhere, at any time is really, really important,” Funk added.

Richard Kidd IV, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Strategic Integration, said Texas is a great place for an energy project and Fort Hood’s hybrid project is a significant accomplishment.

“You’ve got the solar arrays here onsite, you’ve got the wind offsite,” Kidd said. “You get the advantages from both power systems.”

With cyber threats, climate change and recent attacks on power grids in other nations, there is a need for secure, reliable sources of energy.

Renewable energy sources are more secure, he said, noting that extreme weather events that knock out electricity are common.

“For too long, we’ve taken it for granted that our installations are safe,” Kidd said. “We need to take steps now to install power generation on our installations, to connect different technologies and secure the micro grid in a way that can provide energy security to those installations.”

“Right now, the Army has about 300 megawatts of renewable energy capacity installed on our installations,” Kidd said. “That number is growing.”

Fort Hood’s hybrid renewable energy project represents about 7 percent of the Army’s goal to reach a gigawatt of renewable energy by 2025, Air Force Brig. Gen. Martin Chapin, commander, Defense Logistics Agency (Energy), said.

“This is part of a larger puzzle when it comes to the Army’s move to clean and renewable, so there is a goal that the Army has set and this represents a significant part of that goal,” he said.

The project presents an opportunity to ensure Fort Hood always has reliable energy.

“To make sure that it is always available, no matter what is happening, is absolutely critical to us,” Chapin said.

The Army is also looking at other options for renewable energy, including working to pair natural gas and solar, tri-fueled engines, secure micro grids and power storage, Chapin added.

Fort Hood’s project was a complicated one for the contractor selected to make the idea a reality.

Mark Goodwin, president and chief executive officer, Apex Clean Energy, the contractor for the project, said this was the most complex transaction Apex has done.

Goodwin’s company worked with the Army, the installation and several partners to secure funding for the project here and in West Texas.

The time and investment will pay huge dividends for not only Fort Hood, but also the Army.

“They are going to literally save over $100 million over the lifetime of this project,” Goodwin said.

Dosa explained the process to the Sentinel last fall.

“The way that this arrangement works is, the Army and the U.S. government doesn’t have any up-front investment at all in this project,” Dosa said. “A private company, called Apex Clean Energy, got investors to come up with the money, to invest the money, to build this solar array and to build the wind turbines out in West Texas. They’re going to lease the land, here on Fort Hood from the Army, lease the land out in West Texas, build the infrastructure, own it, operate it and then they’re going to sell the electricity back to Fort Hood over the course of 30 years.”

Construction on the 21 wind turbines assigned to Fort Hood and located in West Texas’ Floyd County was complete in January and was fully operational March 24.

Phantom Solar electrons began flowing on March 29, but construction on the arrays was complete April 15, according to John Stone, APEX Clean Energy.

With renewable energy flowing across the installation, Funk said this is a part of being Phantom Ready and Phantom Strong.

“This is what it’s about,” the General continued. “This is finding ways to be a power projection platform, to actually project into the future our ability to defend this great nation.”