Sun City’s solar rays to power Bliss

Photo by Sgt. Barry St. Clair, 24th Press Camp Headquarters
Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:32am

Community members gathered to mark the beginning of solar electricity collection by SolarCity on Balfour Beatty Communities housing units here Feb. 26. They partnered with Team Bliss leaders at a ribbon cutting ceremony at La Noria Housing Fort Bliss.

Mason Crawford, a pumpkin farmer from Kentucky, presented an energy demonstration at Logan Elementary here Feb. 25, as part of the two day Net Zero awareness campaign. He explained to the first-grade class that expendable energy sources like coal and oil can be replaced by renewable sources such as wind power, water power or solar collection to achieve energy security and sustainability over the long term. The first graders picked up the conservation tip to turn off appliances when not in use.

“It has been four years since we met with the Army here to talk about moving toward sustainable sources of energy,” said Tabitha Crawford, senior vice president for sustainability and innovation with Balfour Beatty Investments. Crawford spoke about solar energy to the first grade class at Logan Elementary and addressed the crowd at the ribbon cutting the next day.

The background planning to bring Fort Bliss residents to this point consisted of a partnership between the Army, BBC and SolarCity to finance, install and maintain the solar panels that began producing electricity in the La Noria neighborhood last month.

The project will grow to nearly 4,700 homes here and near White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The project will make Fort Bliss housing the largest community-producer of solar energy. When completed, it is estimated that the system will produce 13.2 megawatts of power, which is 5.2 megawatts more than the largest system ever built.

Abba Joplin, a 15 year-old resident of the Lower Logan community, spoke confidently about the innovations in energy by the inventor Thomas Edison.

“I also like to think [Edison] believed in renewable energy and the need for it when he said, ‘I’d put my money on the power of the sun and renewable energy. I hope we tackle that before coal and oil run out,’” quoted Joplin. “My family and I are proud to be a part of the largest solar powered community in the world.”

While speaking at the ribbon cutting, Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard underscored the top three major goals at Fort Bliss, and the installation’s commitment to become a Net Zero base by 2018.

“First we want to have the best trained Soldiers anywhere in the Army,” said Pittard. “Number two is to have the highest quality of life for our Soldiers and civilians who live and work here … number three, is to be a Net Zero community.”

The primary goal for energy use by the Army is for installations to become Net Zero in energy, water and waste. The Net Zero Strategy is the cornerstone of the Army strategy for sustainability and energy security.

SolarCity has the contract to install, monitor energy output, and maintain the 13.2-megawatt solar system that will produce up to 28 percent of current energy usage on post. The projection is limited to a 20-year wear out date on the solar panels.

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