A high, piercing, metal rat-tat-tat drumming can be heard as giant steel posts are hammered deep into the desert floor of Utah.
Dugway Proving Ground is taking its first step on its way to become more resilient by building a new, environmentally friendly and renewable solar array. The array will collect the sunlight to provide electricity to the installation’s homes, buildings and test areas of its vast nearly 700,000-acre remote site.
A $7.7 million solar power array, which began construction this summer near the substation at English Village’s housing and administration area, will convert sunlight using solar panels, covering 25-acres.
Building resilience means the ability of an installation — its systems, organizations, workforce and residents — to adapt to changing conditions.
“Energy security is vital for the Army mission at Dugway. With aging infrastructure of the commercial power grid and frequent power outages it’s critical we look at alternate methods to insure an uninterrupted power source, “said Don Smith, Dugway’s new garrison manager. “Solar power is an excellent way to achieve a degree of energy independence and protect the Army‘s mission.”
Dugway Poving Ground’s solar array site overlooks the English Village housing and administration areas, July 30, 2015. The array will collect and convert sunlight using solar panels, covering 25 acres. Image credit: TriEcoTetra Tech
This is part of a much wider Army goal for environmental sustainability in all its area facilities. The 2007 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Army to consume 25 percent of electricity requirements from renewable sources, by 2025.
“Energy security underwrites our unique ability to rapidly deploy, employ and sustain military forces around the globe,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment in a press release. “It’s for that reason the Army is moving toward building resilience into our installations.”
The array’s 2-megawatt solar photovoltaic cells will generate about 3,990 megawatt-hours of power annually, enough to power more than 500 homes, according to the Corps of Engineers.
The array includes 1,300 enormous metal posts that requires large pile drivers to pound them deep into the soil to ensure stability. They hold the 3,300 stationary solar panels that are currently being attached. The panels are estimated to last for 30-plus years.
Sean Svendsen, Dugway’s resource efficiency manager, said that solar is a significant part of building the installation’s renewable energy plan. Once operational, the array is expected to generate about 10 percent of the electricity needs, or about 4.5 percent of the total installation energy.
Sean Svendsen, Dugway’s resource efficiency manager examines a solar panel at the solar array construction site, July 30, 2015, at U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. The array is a significant part of building the installation’s renewable energy plan. Image credit: Bonnie A. Robinson
“It will help us provide cleaner, more affordable energy and provide substantial cost savings for the installation, which will save Dugway about “$640,000 a year, or about $12 million over 25 years,” he said.
Approximately 400 acres have been approved for solar development on the installation, including English Village (325 acres total), and the Ditto area (75 acres).
“A second solar 2-megawatt array near the test center will strengthen our energy security posture,” Smith said.
In addition to solar-generated electricity, Svendsen noted Dugway is working a number of energy projects including wind and geothermal energy, which would combine heat and airstream power to support cost for additional energy security measures.
The installation is also considering a micro-grid control system to combine various energy resources to form an inter-grated system, he said.
TriEco-Tetra Tech Sustainable Resources Joint Venture of San Diego was awarded the contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District. Hunt Electrical of Salt Lake City is also part of the construction team.
Dugway Proving Ground’s primary mission is to test chemical and biological defenses, such as detectors, protective clothing, and decontamination equipment. Dugway is part of the Army Test & Evaluation Command.