D-M cuts ribbon on largest U.S. military base solar project - Tucson News Now

D-M cuts ribbon on largest U.S. military base solar power project

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Air Force blue is going green.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is building a more sustainable future with the largest solar power project at any U.S. military installation in the world.

It's a 16.4 megawatt solar array project. 

D-M and local, government and private industry dignitaries cut the ribbon Thursday on the two giant solar arrays that are now providing more than a third of the energy that powers Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The arrays cover 170 acres.

"Our ability to make use of the sun for clear, renewable, constant energy is critical to our base," says Davis-Monthan 355th Fighter Wing Commander Kevin Blanchard.

The array is the result of a public/private partnership.

Cost to build: About $40 million to the private sector companies that installed and will maintain the array.

Davis-Monthan provided the land.

The base is one of the major users of electricity in Tucson.

"We're going to be able to keep those costs down for the next 25 years, guaranteeing a clean source of electricity for the base. And our initial estimates for the first few years is project saving on the order of four-to-500,000 dollars a year in our energy bill," Col. Blanchard says.

Several partners in the venture spoke at the ribbon-cutting, listing what they see as the project's benefits.

"Clean energy that then adds cost savings, provides jobs in our communities," says Bob Powell, President North America, SunEdison Solar Energy.

"This project will produce enough energy annually to power 3,000 homes. It will reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 7,500 cars off the road," says Tucson Electric President and COO David Hutchens.

The solar array is expected to provide about 35 percent of the base's electricity.

However, Col. Blanchard told KOLD News 13 that during more temperate times of the year the solar panels could provide enough energy to power the entire base.

Retired Navy Captain and astronaut, Mark Kelly, represented his wife, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, at the event.

Several speakers cited Giffords' efforts in Congress, over many years, to bring people together and cut through red tape to get to this moment.

"Solar--well, renewable energy to begin with, but specifically solar-- being a member of Congress from Arizona, was one of her most important things and also how solar applied to the military, and renewable energy to the military. So it was one of Gabby's top priorities," Kelly says.

Davis-Monthan will be doing monthly evaluations to find out exactly how much money it's saving because of the solar array.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now All rights reserved.

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