Baking in the Mojave Sun: US Army Awards $2B Fort Irwin Solar Farm Project
The US Army Corps of Engineers signed an agreement with Irwin Energy Security Partners to build a $2 billion, 500-megawatt (MW) solar energy complex at Fort Irwin located in the Mojave Desert, California.
Through an enhanced use lease (EUL) agreement, the Army will lease about 14,000 acres at Fort Irwin to Irwin Energy Security Parnters, a joint venture of ACCIONA Solar Power in Henderson, NV and the Clark Energy Group in Bethesda, MD. The project will be financed and developed by the joint venture partners who will deliver services in kind (e.g., operation and maintenance) to the Army in exchange for the lease of military landholdings. The venture will be able to sell electricity not used by Fort Irwin on the commercial grid via two high-power transmission lines in the vicinity of the base.
The 500 MW project will be the largest DoD solar power project, dwarfing the 14 MW solar farm at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and the 2 MW installation at Fort Carson in Colorado…
The Fort Irwin solar power facilities will be installed at 5 sites selected by Army technicians. The project could expand from 500 MW to 1,000 MW at a later stage. The first phase of project will be completed in 2014 and will provide enough solar power to sustain Fort Irwin. The project will use concentrated solar thermal and photovoltaic technology.
The contract signing follows a competitive bid process opened in March by the US Army’s Senior Energy Council, a body created in October 2008 to oversee a sustainable energy strategy aimed at finding alternative energy sources, obtaining increased energy savings, and securing energy supplies for US Army installations, personnel, vehicles and other assets.
A federal mandate requires the US Army to reduce its energy consumption by 30% by 2015 and to cover 25% of its energy needs with renewable energy sources by 2025.
The EUL program is designed to allow private companies to acquire value from underutilized real estate assets on Army bases and other US Department of Defense (DoD) installations. The new 500 MW solar facilities are expected to produce approximately 1,000 Gigawatt hours (GWh) annually, far exceeding Fort Irwin’s 35 MW peak load.
Fort Irwin sprawls over 2.5 square miles and is home to the Army’s largest training camp (5,000 recruits arrive there every month) and NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, whose antennas are used for space mission communications.