Fort Hood, federal and local officials broke ground here during a ceremony for a massive energy project for the installation, Jan. 28.
The ceremony, fittingly on a sunny and windy day in Central Texas, marked the beginning of the largest renewable energy project in the Army to date.
“Well, I expected it to be sunny in Texas, but I didn’t quite expect this much wind,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army, Installations, Energy and Environment. “So, it is a wonderful thing and it certainly emphasizes the reason why we have this project here.”
The project, the largest and first of its kind, will include both an on-post solar farm and an off-site wind turbine farm, which has the capacity to generate 65 megawatts of electricity for the installation, saving taxpayer money during the duration of the contract.
Maj. Gen. John Uberti, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commanding general, said over the course of the contract awarded to Apex Clean Energy by the Defense Logistics Agency, the Army will avoid paying approximately $168 million.
“Not only will we gain a sustainable energy source, supplying nearly half of our energy needs, but it will be at a lower price than the power generated by fossil fuels,” Uberti said. “It is fitting that the largest project of this type is at Fort Hood, Texas, because as I’m learning, everything in Texas is big.” Hammack agreed.
“There are a lot of firsts here. It’s the first hybrid project, wind and solar, in the Army, it’s the first to combine on-site and off-site energy and it is the largest,” Hammack said. “As was said, everything is bigger in the state of Texas, so right now Texas has the distinction of contributing the most to renewable energy in the Army.”
Brian Dosa, Fort Hood director of Public Works, said the solar farm on Fort Hood will consist of more than 63,000 solar panels covering an area of 132 acres of installation land.
“Maybe a different way to look at that is that’s equivalent to about 10 football fields with end zones of solar panels,” Dosa said.
According to Mark Goodwin, president and chief operating officer, Apex Clean Energy, the off-site wind turbine farm will be located in Floyd County. He explained how this off-post location could provide the power to Fort Hood.
“We have approximately 20 turbines and they are on a collection string that connects into an interconnection substation and then that connects to the grid,” Goodwin said, “and then we have a partner utility that will take the power from the wind farm and deliver it to the base. So, it is putting power onto the grid and then what Fort Hood is doing, they are reaping the benefit as a big savings in what they are paying now.”
Goodwin said the upstart capital of the project will be $100 million, but Hammack said there are more benefits from the project than simply saving tax-payer money over the course of the contract.
“What we want to do is make sure we’re utilizing all the resources that are available,” Hammack said. “We want to make sure that the fossil fuels that we do use are used for our mobility, where you have fewer choices. We have choices in the energy used to power our installations.”
Rep. John Carter, Texas 31st Congressional District congressman, agreed there are more added benefits to the venture.
“Using renewables makes sense on military posts throughout the country,” Carter said. “More importantly, and what we’re all about here at Fort Hood, it frees up money to be able to make better Soldiers here on Fort Hood. So, if it’s cheaper energy, it gives us more money in our pockets to spend on training up the best warriors in world.”
Hammack noted that the federal government is the largest energy user in the U.S., and that the Army is the largest facility energy user. She added that the future looks bright with many more projects similar to this one to launch Armywide.
“Last year, (the Army’s energy bill) cost us $1.3 billion, and when we look at this project here that is going to save money across the term of the contract for the Army, that is money that we can put elsewhere, to critical missions, and that’s important to us,” Hammack said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far and I look forward to the Army continuing to lead by example in energy efficiency and in renewable energy projects.”