Solar Power Kicks In At Edwards Air Force Base

What’s big, green and set to save taxpayers money over the course of the next 30 years? A new 3.4 megawatt (MW) solar power installation at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, that’s what. Comprising three ground-mounted, single-axis tracking solar farms, the system was built and is owned by Borrego Solar, which will sell power to the military base under the terms of an in-house power purchase agreement (PPA).

“Our utility bill can range anywhere from $15 million to $18 million a year and our utility bills for the summer actually double, but our consumption only goes up 3 percent,” said James Judkins, 95th Civil Engineering director, Edwards Air Force Base, in a statement. “What we’re trying to do (with this project) is not so much conserve energy, but save money.”

Edwards Air Force Base Borrego solar installation

image via Borrego Solar

Judkins said Borrego’s installation is, essentially, putting a solar plant “on our side of the meter,” which will allow the base to cover around 6 percent of its annual electricity needs with solar, while keeping the base from having to pay those exorbitant high-demand charges from Southern California Edison (SCE) during air conditioning season, (i.e., from June through September). Work had begun on the project last October, after nearly three years of planning and coordination with SCE, the California Public Utilities Commission and environmental agencies.

Per the PPA, Borrego Solar financed, designed and installed the system at no upfront cost to Edwards Air Force Base and will sell energy back to the base at an economical and fixed rate, helping to offset electricity bills across the base’s three facilities.

All of which makes sense, per the Department of the Army’s recently established Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), set to oversee the Army’s goal of transitioning to 25 percent renewable energy use by 2025.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.