By Ashley Butler
Nevada National Guard
CARSON CITY, Nev., (11/11/09) - The Nevada National Guard held a groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 9 for a new $17 million solar energy project.
Gov. Jim Gibbons participated in the event with military officials and representatives from Sierra Solar I, the firm that will cover the engineering, procurement and construction costs for the project.
The parking lot at the office of the Adjutant General located in Carson City will be covered by car ports with solar modules attached at the top. These car ports will benefit the National Guard by collecting solar energy and they will also create a better environment for employees by creating covered parking with significantly cooler temperatures in comparison to open-air parking.
When finished, the solar structures will give the Nevada National Guard the capacity to produce fully 60 percent of its energy from renewable sources by March 2010. The Carson City project will have a capacity of about 1.4 megawatts and the other two additional sites set to be constructed will produce about 1 megawatt apiece. Times of the day and months of the year will affect the amount of energy produced as the amount of sunlight will vary.
A total of three Nevada National Guard facilities are set to become construction sites for major solar-module structure projects this autumn. The three sites include the Carson City site, the Las Vegas Readiness Center and the Floyd Edsall Training Center near North Las Vegas. These sites were selected, because they are the biggest energy consumers of all Nevada Army Guard locations.
When the project is complete, the Nevada National Guard will be ahead of schedule as it works toward its goals for renewable electricity production. Federal mandates state that by 2015 at least 20 percent of all the energy used by Nevada National Guard military locations must come from renewable sources.
“Overall, this project is a big step for the National Guard as it moves toward its goal of becoming an organization that is a responsible example for other organizations in the field of energy efficiency,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jim Groth, an environmental protection specialist for the Nevada Army National Guard. “Some schools and civilian businesses are already interested in making a change and switching to solar-energy use after seeing the plans for this project. The Guard will assist these entities as a community outreach effort in providing its lessons learned from this construction.”
All three locations will feature the same design. The parking lots at all three locations will be covered by car ports with solar modules attached at the top. These car ports benefit the Guard by collecting solar energy and they will also create a better environment for employees by creating covered parking with significantly cooler temperatures in comparison to open-air parking.
Another important fact surrounding the upcoming project is that federal dollars will not be used. A private-sector firm, Sierra Solar, is the sponsor company for the solar energy carports.
In return, the Nevada Guard will purchase energy from Sierra Solar I at a fixed price for the next 20 years regardless of fluctuating prices in the energy market.
“This energy business model known as a power purchase agreement can be replicated by other state agencies and commercial entities to facilitate major renewable energy development and bring significant positive environmental and economic impact to Nevada,” Groth said.
Combined, the new solar energy collectors will produce about 3.4 megawatts of energy, equivalent to about 15,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. The OTAG complex in Carson City will have a capacity of about 1.4 megawatts and the other two sites will produce about 1 megawatt apiece. Times of the day and months of the year will affect the amount of energy produced as the amount of sunlight will vary.
During peak days of sunlight, the solar modules will create more energy than the Guard will consume. This extra energy will be diverted back to the power grid and give the Guard sites with the solar panels credit towards future power bills in a win-win situation for the Guard and the energy company.
Some questions concerning how the project would affect the environment and wildlife arose during the planning stages, but because the solar modules will be built over previously developed land — the parking lots— the wildlife impact promises to be minimal. The project received its final Nevada Board of Examiners approval on September 8 and construction was set to begin in early November.
Groth said other organizations in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and California are joining forces with Nevada in “going green” with solar energy. With its abundance of land and sunshine, the Nevada Guard is among the first of Nevada’s large organizations able to cash in on its home state’s solar energy potential.
Groth said that although construction may cause some temporary inconveniences with parking at the three construction sites, the end result will be positive for everyone.