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.

In recent years, we’ve seen a veritable plethora of renewable energy installations and technologies stemming from the military sector, including a 1.5-MW solar array at the National Guard’s South Burlington base in Vermont, a geothermal heating and cooling system at the Army’s Fort Lee base in Virginia, and even a collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratories and the Army to help its bases reach net zero energy status. The EITF was formed around the understanding that the best way for the U.S. military to achieve its renewable energy/energy-security goals is to work with private sector developers such as Borrego.

Edwards Air Force base solar
image via Borrego Solar

“We are proud to have completed this project as it is a great example of how public-private partnerships can succeed and allow the development and installation of large-scale solar energy systems on government property,” said Mike Hall, CEO of Borrego Solar, in a statement. His company points out that, by entering into a PPA with Borrego Solar, military facility managers can move solar projects forward and enjoy many of the benefits of solar energy while investing zero upfront capital costs.

Borrego was recently awarded a contract by the General Services Administration certifying it to provide solar installation services to federal agencies. In addition to the Edwards Air Force base installation, the company also completed a nearly one MW project at the Point Loma Navy Base in San Diego Bay (in 2010).