Solar Powers (And Shades) A Desert Base

There’s an impressive collection of new solar arrays at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) in Twentynine Palms, Calif. – four separate arrays, adding up to  464,000 square feet of photovoltaics. Together they provide 1.5 megawatts of generating capacity, according to a company that worked on the project.

Baker Electric Solar said 4,680 SunPower solar panels were installed on two parking areas, an amphitheater and a recreational park at the base. In the blistering hot Southern California desert, these solar canopies not only provide power, but “premium shading” (Is there any other kind out there?) for military personnel. Here’s a rendering that includes three of the arrays:

Twentynine Palms Marines Solar

image via PGAL

The solar power is a key part of a complex that is registered LEED Platinum and that “almost achieved net zero energy, with a 92 percent energy offset,” Baker said. Here’s a shot of the amphitheater canopy:

image via PGAL

The project apparently came with a few unique challenges for Baker and its partner, Blue Oak Energy (BOE). “To meet naval site-specific requirements, BOE designed custom hardware for the mounting of the solar panels,” the company said. “Employing 3-D modeling, BOE adapted the various solar array configurations throughout the site to preserve the architectural design.”

Twentynine Palms interior

image via PGAL

The interior of the new barracks are pretty impressive, as well, as you can see in the photograph above. As site architect PGAL said, “these are not your Daddy’s barracks.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.