FORT HOOD — The post celebrated the completion of a 63,000-solar panel construction project at West Fort Hood during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
Even as President Donald Trump withdraws the United States from the Paris climate accord, one of the nation’s largest military installations was celebrating the use of new and renewable energy sources.
The Army’s first hybrid renewable energy project includes both off- and on-post power generation. The $100 million on-post solar farm is spread across 132 acres, equivalent to 100 football fields, and will provide 15 megawatts of energy.
The Cotton Plains Wind project in Floyd County near Lubbock is the off-site facility and consists of 21 wind turbines and provides 50 megawatts. The combined solar and wind energy project will provide almost 50 percent of the post’s energy requirements.
The project has taken about four years to complete and was constructed to increase security of the installation’s energy grid and for cost efficiency.
“The director of national intelligence testified before Congress last month stating the nation’s power grids were vulnerable to attack,” said Richard G. Kidd IV, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for strategic innovation, who came to Fort Hood for the ribbon-cutting. “As a result, the Department of Defense and other services needed to do more to make their installations energy resilient.”
“This project has two benefits for Fort Hood, one it has on-site power generation with the solar panels here; and two, it has significant cost avoidance,” said Kidd.
The project came at no up front cost to the Army based on the power purchase agreement made with Apex Clean Energy, company that built and operates the renewable energy farm, Kidd said.
“It comes at no cost to the Army because we have an existing power price, this project is below that power price, so what we committed to Apex was to buy power over a 30-year period,” Kidd said. “With that long-term commitment, Apex was able to finance, build and operate the solar site and wind site and deliver power to the Army that’s less (cost) than conventional grid power.”
The project includes a micro grid facility which allows the fort to maintain electricity even if the local community experienced a power loss.
The solar and wind farm are expected to save $1.5 million in electricity in the next year and $168 million in energy costs over the next 28 years.
“It’s not only good for the environment but frankly, it’s good for the Army economically as it will save millions of dollars the cost of energy in the future here at Fort Hood,” Brian Dosa, the director of public works at Fort Hood.