by Pam Zubeck
Not just anyone can attend today's news conference to announce the completion of the Air Force Academy's new solar array.
Solar advocate Sam Masias raised the issue with Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte, who forwarded his concern to City Council President Scott Hente:
At the May Utility Board Meeting I requested that the AFA Solar ArrayCeremony be opened to the public. Based upon the press release issuedon Friday June 10 with the ceremony scheduled for Monday June 13, it
will not be open to the public. Part of the intent of the StimulusFunds was to promote the awareness solar energy in the community. What gives? It can't be based upon security issues because the array
entrance is outside of the south entrance.
Here's Hente's response to Masias:
The Academy is in total control of who gets invited and how access is controlled. For what it's worth, the Academy even limited the total number of City/CSU/Council Members who could attend. Only Bernie and I will be representing the Council.
Anyway, the array is finished and ready for dedication to the small number of people who will be admitted for the ceremony. If you're not on the A-list, here's the lowdown, according to an academy news release:
The Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs Utilities and Sun-Power Corp. will dedicate the new photovoltaic solar array at the Air Force Academy Monday, June 13, at 11 a.m.
The 30-acre, 6 megawatt system has been designed, built and now operated via a partnership between the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs Utilities, and Sun-Power.
Colorado Springs Utilities contracted with Sun Power to design, build, own, operate and maintain the plant. The Air Force Academy will receive all of the power generated by the plant at zero cost for the life of the array.
This $18.3 million project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as a result of government mandates for federal facilities to use increasing amounts of renewable energy.
Scheduled speakers for the ground-breaking ceremony include: Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, superintendent of the Air Force Academy; Mr. Jerry Forte, chief executive officer, Colorado Springs Utilities; and Ms. Karen Butterfield, director of federal programs, Sun-Power.
The solar power system began generating power in March 2011, with completion of the array coming at the end of June 2011.
“We are proud to be part of this exciting solar power project,” said Jerry Forte, chief executive officer of Colorado Springs Utilities. “While the project is of tremendous benefit to the Air Force Academy, our entire community benefits from clean, renewable energy generated right here in the Pikes Peak region.”
This solar array is just the latest step in the Air Force Academy’s Net-Zero Initiative.
“This initiative sets in motion progress towards the goal of the Academy to generate 100 percent of the electricity it needs via on-base renewable energy sources,” said Russ Hume, Academy mechanical engineer. “This is one project among many to bring renewable energy and building efficiencies to the Academy. We’re aggressively adding hybrid and E-85 capable vehicles to the vehicle fleet as well to reduce the Academy’s overall carbon foot print.”
The Academy is also leveraging its research capabilities to explore near- and long-term alternative energy applications, including:
• Improving the effectiveness of solar photovoltaic panels via carbon scoring.
• Creating and testing hydrogen fuel cells,
• Researching portable alternative energy uses for the battlefield,
• Investigating the use of algae to create biofuels, and
• Harnessing the power of ocean waves to create clean energy, in cooperation with the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy.