By Kenya Stump and Eileen Hardy
Department for Energy Development and Independence
Friday, June 15th marked a monumental occasion for solar in the Commonwealth as the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) and Fort Campbell announced the completion of a five megawatt Solar Array Project at Fort Campbell—making it the largest non-utility solar array in Kentucky.
It is also the first of its kind, as the solar project covers approximately 20 acres on an abandoned landfill on Fort Campbell and a collaboration of multiple partnerships that have made the five-year renewable energy plan a reality.
“It’s an honor to finally cut the ribbon on this very important project,” said Colonel Rob Salome, Garrison Commander at Fort Campbell. “It’s amazing to think how much Fort Campbell has changed over the last couple of years, and how we’ve moved toward alternative energy sources such as this solar array. When we started this process, we were really looking for ways to refine our energy usage in efficient ways. Now, with the project completed, this array represents 10 percent of our total energy utilization. And that’s really huge to us.”
The renewable energy project is a result of a unique partnership of the United States Army, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Energy (US DOE), Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation (PRECC), BithEnergy, Inc. and EEC.
“It took a lot of folks to make this project happen – from both the state of Kentucky, our many industry partners and our great department of public works,” said Colonel Salome.
Installation on the solar array began in 2012 when Fort Campbell established a renewable energy plan, based on directives set forth in the American Renewable Energy Act requiring 25 percent of energy consumed by federal installations to be produced by renewable means by 2025.
The Kentucky EEC awarded a $3.1 million grant in December 2012 to help launch the project’s first phase. Phase one included a 1.9 megawatt portion of the solar array, executed through a 10-year utility energy services contract with PRECC. The contract allows the electric cooperative to use the grant funding to pay for the solar array’s interconnection infrastructure.
Fort Campbell received an additional $800,000 grant through the US DOE Federal Emergency Management Program to fund phase two. Funding is tied to a 27-year power purchase agreement.
The project is unique on several fronts. First, it demonstrates how the Army is able to leverage both a utility energy services contract and a power purchase agreement to develop the solar array. The project consists of more than 16,000 solar modules constructed on top of a closed 20 acre landfill – demonstrating how underutilized properties can be put into productive service again. For Fort Campbell, the completion of the five megawatt solar array represents becoming one step closer to being energy secure and meeting outlined mission goals.
“For Kentucky, this shows how energy and brownfield properties can work together to create value for our military installations,” said Rick Bender, Executive Advisor for the Energy and Environment Cabinet. “Energy Assurance is a strategic priority for Kentucky and this project exemplifies how partnerships make this goal a reality and benefits the Commonwealth.”
“We want to thank the state of Kentucky for the investment in us and trusting us to make good use of grant funds,” said Colonel Salome. “It is money well spent, a great return on.”
Since forming, the unique project collaborative has assembled more than $10 million to support the project, including funding from the EEC and the U.S. DOE. The Solar Array Project will generate enough energy to power 463 homes, while avoiding 4,880 metric tons annually of CO2 emissions, all while strengthening America’s economic, energy and environmental security.
“Everyone did a fantastic job, and this is just the beginning,” said Colonel Salome. “I know there are lots more things we want to do that we can partner on to really make ourselves as energy independent as possible.”