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Jun 13, 2011 7:23 PM by Matt Stafford

AFA solar array up and running

With the flip of a switch, the Air Force Academy's solar array is running at full power -- a full six megawatts.

"This would power approximately 1,200-plus average homes for a year," says Russell Hume, an engineer for the Air Force Academy. They're hoping it will cut down 11 to 12 percent of the Academy's energy bill; but on sunny days like Monday, they might save more.

"We will be producing about a third of the Air Force Academy's entire energy need on days like this, just from the solar array," says Hume.

The project cost $18.3 million dollars; it was all paid for from stimulus money back in 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Ground was broken on the array last November. Sun-Power Corp. contracted with Colorado Springs Utilities to help build run and maintain the facility, for at least 25 years using grant money.

Colorado Springs Utilities is trying to have 20 percent of their energy output coming from renewable sources in the next nine years.

"Even this year we've moved very close to even 10 percent of our send out being qualifying renewables," says Jerry Forte, C.E.O. of Colorado Springs Utilities. So this partnership has been a valuable a learning experience.

"It's going to help us to get more experience with very large scale solar applications and instillations as well," says Forte; which they will no doubt be looking at, as Colorado Springs Utilities looks to meet their goals by 2020.

The Air Force Academy has energy goals as well; they want to produce all of the electricity used on the base, generated from renewable sources. The Air Force Academy calls this their "Net-Zero Initiative; to read more about it, click here.

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