Vandenberg flips the switch on new solar array system

  • Published
  • By J. Brian Garmon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs
Earlier this month, the Air Force took another step toward its goal of increasing facility use of clean energy by 25 percent by fiscal 2025 at a solar array dedication event at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Representatives from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, Vandenberg, Defense Logistics Agency Energy, and SunPower marked the commencement of operations for this 28-megawatt solar photovoltaic array at the event. The array consists of nearly 65,000 solar panels and covers 129 acres of land formerly used for on-base housing. It represents the largest such project in the Air Force, where all generated power is consumed by the base. The power generated by the system will meet approximately 35 percent of the base’s annual energy needs and will offset carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to that of 8,600 cars annually.

“The Air Force is committed to incorporating modern, clean energy technology, like solar, to provide diverse energy sources for our warfighter,” said Dan Soto, AFCEC rates and renewables division chief. “With support on this project from solar technology innovator SunPower, we’re improving energy resiliency, optimizing demand, and assuring supply at Vandenberg over the long term.”

Mark Correll, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for environment, safety, and infrastructure, spoke at the dedication on what this project and projects like it represent for the Air Force.

“From an Air Force perspective on energy, we are looking at three things,” said Correll. “First and foremost is resiliency. If we were to be separated from the power grid in some way, shape or form; how would we be able to recover from that to continue our mission? Power systems like this provide that kind of resilience. The second thing we care about is cost. We have changed our focus a little bit. It’s not all about saving money, it’s all about resiliency, but at the same time we can’t just pay whatever it takes to make that happen. Then the third thing from an Air Force perspective is that we are interested in clean power with a focus on renewable energy.”

This project was made possible through a power purchase agreement between the Air Force and SunPower. These agreements allow federal agencies, to host a solar power system without any upfront costs to the taxpayer or the burden of managing such a system over time. The base will purchase electricity under a 25-year term from SunPower at a competitive, fixed rate, and the Force retains all associated environmental credits.

“Access to reliable, resilient electricity to meet operational needs is a priority for the U.S. Air Force, and this solar project enables us to increase our own energy security at Vandenberg with competitively priced solar energy from SunPower,” said Ken Domako, chief of portfolio optimization at Vandenberg.