Renewable Roundup: Solar powered Air Force base

  • Published on June 29th, 2020

The Federal government is way too big for Trump to be able to interfere with all of it. US DoD is one of the loudest voices warning about dire consequences of global warming, and is trying to make itself as independent of fossil fuels as possible—air, land, and sea.

Nellis AFB solar panels (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
Nellis AFB solar panels (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

By Mokurai

Nellis Air Force Base Builds Largest Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant in North America with SunPower


  • Estimated annual energy savings of $1 million
  • Meets 25% of the base’s electricity requirements, serving over 12,000 people
  • Significantly reduces environmental footprint while providing energy security
  • Hedges against rising electricity prices
  • Supports Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard
  • Will reduce carbon emissions by 24,000 tons over 30 years, equivalent to removing over 185,000 cars from the roads or planting 260,000 acres of trees

Fine. So we need three more like that, on this one base. It’s a start. Now, when you can show me an electric fighter jet, I’ll really be impressed.

Going Solar Saves Nellis Air Force Base Over $1 Million a Year on Energy Costs

The SunPower Advantage

For several years, Nellis considered solar options from several companies. However, plans fell through due to high installation and solar power costs. Air Force regulations did not permit the base to invest in a power project that cost more than the electricity purchased from the local utility company. Finally, in an open bidding process in early 2007, SunPower emerged as the partner of choice by bringing its utility-scale European experience to the U.S., and by offering Nellis a premier system bid at a price below the local utility’s rates.

A Wise Financial Decision

The SunPower solar project did not require any out-of-pocket capital investment by the U.S. Air Force. Under the terms of the SunPower Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), MMA Renewable Ventures, LLC financed and owns the system, selling power to Nellis at a guaranteed rate for the next 20 years. SunPower also helped Nellis broker Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) with Nevada Power, further reducing the project’s cost.

Measures of Excellence

The employees at Nellis take pride in the fact that the Air Force Base is home to one of the largest solar power system in the U.S. Over the next 30 years, this solar system will help Nellis reduce carbon emissions by 24,000 tons, which is equivalent to planting 260,000 acres of trees, or removing 185,000 cars from the roads.

Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense

The Office of the Secretary of Defense requested information from the Military Departments for climate-related events.  To ensure connection to mission impacts, DoD focused on 79 mission assurance priority installations based on their operational role.  The Office of the Secretary of Defense requested Military Departments analyze the climate-related events at  these installations.  The installations break down by organization as follows1: The Military Departments noted the presence or not of current and potential vulnerabilities to each installation over the next 20 years, selecting from the events listed below.  Note that the congressional request established the 20-year timeframe.

Climate-Related Events

  • Recurrent Flooding
  • Drought
  • Desertification
  • Wildfires
  • Thawing Permafrost

and, of course war.

About two-thirds of the 79 installations addressed in this report are vulnerable to current or future recurrent flooding and more than one-half are vulnerable to current or future drought.  About one-half are vulnerable to wildfires.   It is  important to note that areas subject to wildfire may then experience serious mudslides or erosion when rains follow fires.   Impacts are dispersed around the country.   Not surprisingly, impacts vary by region for coastal flooding, with greater impacts to the East coast and Hawaii than the West coast.  Desertification vulnerabilities are limited to the sites on the list with arid soils; these are in California, New Mexico, and Nevada.  Drought vulnerabilities are more widely dispersed across the country.  Wildfire and recurrent flooding impacts are the most widely dispersed.

(Crossposted with DailyKos.)

About the Author

Generalist BA, Math and Philosophy Peace Corps, South Korea Buddhist monastic training High-tech market analyst Tech Writer Serial NGO Founder Education for a billion children End poverty at a profit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.