Here comes the sun



Solar panels something like these are coming soon to the Air Force Academy.
  • Solar panels something like these are coming soon to the Air Force Academy.

On Monday, the Air Force Academy hosts a news conference to break ground on the new solar array funded by the federal government that will provide energy at the campus.

Colorado Springs Utilities is participating in the project and decided to hand over the project to SunPower Corp. to build, own and operate the array.

Utilities' spokesman Gabriel Romero explains it in an e-mail to us:

The nature of the funds was such that The Academy was not allowed to directly build the array. In July, we made modifications to the electric tariff to allow for the installation.
The Academy passed the funding to Springs Utilities to decide how to best utilize that money.
In the end it was determined that to maximize the funds we would have a third party build, own and operate to leverage tax credits, grants and accelerated depression to increase the size of the array.
By utilizing the third party ownership, the array went from approximately a 2.5-megawatt installation to a 6.0-megawatt installation.

The academy, though, says in a news release the array will be a 5.2-megawatt system.

The news release says SunPower, headquartered in San Jose, Calif., will sell the power generated by the array to Springs Utilities for delivery to the academy under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

This $18.3 million project is 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 groundbreaking ceremony include: Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, superintendent of the Air Force Academy; Lionel Rivera, mayor of Colorado Springs; Jerry Forte, CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities; and Jim Pape, president of SunPower Corporation, the news release says.

The solar array is expected to be operational by the summer of 2011.

This solar array is part of the AFA's Net-Zero Initiative, which sets a goal for the academy to generate 100 percent of the electricity it needs via on-base renewable energy sources by the year 2015. The Academy is working toward this goal via a number of means, such as continuing to make Academy buildings more efficient as part of ongoing renovation efforts and even installing solar panels on rooftops as part of these renovations, adding hybrid and E-85 capable vehicles to the Academy’s vehicle fleet, and taking steps to reduce the Academy’s overall electrical energy usage.

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