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Friday, April 5, 2013 - 7:57pm
EL PASO — Fort Bliss is getting national attention for a big solar project on post. Major General Dana Pittard announced plans to build a 20-megawatt solar facility, the largest solar project ever proposed by the U.S. Army.
At 1.2 million acres, Fort Bliss is one of the largest military installations, in terms of land. Approximately 89-percent of Fort Bliss is in New Mexico, and that is where Fort Bliss first looked to build its solar farm. Pittard said the $120 million solar farm could have been three times larger for the same price if it had been built in New Mexico instead of Texas.
"New Mexico has more incentives as far as renewable energy, much more than Texas," said Major General Dana Pittard.
Pittard said plans to build the solar farm in New Mexico did not work out because of complicated interstate laws.
"When it comes to solar energy, hopefully Texas will get on the bandwagon and have more incentives," said Pittard.
Pittard said it is something he discussed with Governor Rick Perry when he visited Fort Bliss, but no legislation has passed.
El Paso Electric requested bids in 2012 and have narrowed it down to a short list of companies qualified to do the work. Once EP Electric makes a final selection, the third party developer will finance, design, build, operate, own and maintain the facility. It is unknown if any local companies submitted a bid.
The goal is for Fort Bliss to be the first "net zero" installation, which means the post would produce as much energy as it uses. The target date to reach net zero at Fort Bliss is 2015. The solar project is expected to be complete before the end of 2015. Fort Bliss is also striving to be net zero in water and waste by 2018, and they want soldiers to play an active role in reaching that goal.
"What we're developing right now is an education and training package that will help take soldiers and make it part of their in-processing to where they will be briefed on energy conservation, water conservation, recycling, things like that," said B.J. Tomlinson, Renewable Energy and Sustainability Program Manager at Fort Bliss.