Nov 2, 2010 3:28 PM by Matt Stafford

AFA breaks ground on new $18M solar project

It's fitting that it was a sunny day at the Air Force Academy Monday to break ground on a new six-megawatt solar power site. The sunshine helped drive the point home on solar energy; they used a little to power the news conference.

"Right there you've got about eight modules (looking at the panels powering the press conference), SunPower will have about 19,000 modules to produce the six-megawatts that we'll get," explains Russell Hume; Energy Program Manager for U.S.A.F.A.

The Air Force Academy applied for, and received, 18.3 million dollars in federal stimulus money, from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to put the solar site together.

When it's up and running, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould said it will hopefully save about a half million dollars a year, and provide for about 11 percent of the Academy's power budget.

They're also partnering with Colorado Springs Utilities, providing a surge to the rest of the community.

"We're going to get six-megawatts of renewable solar power at no cost to our local rate payers," explains Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, who also is on the board for Colorado Spring Utilities. He hopes to be able to see the project operational by the end of his term next spring.

"That would equate to powering several thousand homes in our community, so it's a good deal of energy," says Bruce McCormick with Colorado Springs Utilities.

Springs Utilities sees it as a piece of their plan to replace 20 percent of their electric bill with renewable energy by 2020. The Academy sees it as a part of their future energy plan as well, but going beyond that, the resource it provides their cadets in training is priceless.

"Being able to see what can be done, what is being done, that's invaluable," says Hume.

The winning contractor SunPower Corporation hopes to have the project operational by the summer of 2011.

Springs Utilities says they're working on agreements to eventually take over control of the project, as well as the cost of maintaining it.


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