With vast acres of poles and futuristic-looking solar panels, the construction of Fort Hood’s solar farm last week could have easily been a scene from a science fiction movie.
Truthfully enough, the 132-acre site at West Fort Hood does hint at things to come — the future of the Army’s, and the installation’s, first hybrid renewable energy project. Combined with a wind farm being built in West Texas, officials estimate that the $100 million project will save Fort Hood about $168 million over the next three decades.
Once complete in late Spring, the farm will be outfitted with 65,000 photovoltaic panels designed to rotate on the 9,000 poles, called piers, to capture sunlight. The panels, 200 of which are now installed, are highly resistant to weather conditions like wind and hail, said Fort Hood Director of Public Works Brian Dosa.
Cost-wise, a power purchase agreement between the U.S. Federal Government and Apex Clean Energy means zero upfront cost for Fort Hood or taxpayers.
In the agreement, Apex leases the land and owns, operates and maintains the equipment and materials. Once the project is finished, Apex then will sell the energy back to Fort Hood at a low-cost rate that has been locked in for 30 years.
“With this clean, non fossil fuel source of energy at a potentially lower cost, we are preparing the Army for the future,” Dosa said.
“Fort Hood, the Army’s largest installation, will be an enduring installation for training soldiers in the years to come, and we are investing in that,” he added, explaining that energy derived from the solar farm will be about 15 megawatts. Combined with about 50 megawatts from the wind farm, the energy available will be about 65 megawatts, or almost half of Fort Hood’s daily need.
“We may not have a lot of geothermal energy here in Texas, but what we do have is plenty of good sun and wind — both cheap, reliable energy sources. We are taking advantage of that,” Dosa said.