Members of the U.S. Army, Georgia Power, and local government were on hand Friday at MidCoast Regional Airport for the groundbreaking of a solar array farm that is anticipated to exceed the largest solar project in the Department of Defense.
“This is not just going to benefit Fort Stewart,” said Brig. Gen. James Blackburn Jr., Task Force Marne commander. “Although we have 30 megawatts that will be produced here, this is not just about Fort Stewart that consumes 28 megawatts per day. This really is about everybody who consumes through Georgia Power as well.”
The 139,000 panels at Fort Stewart are projected to be generating solar energy by September 2016, according to William Houser, senior project manager at Georgia Power. The Army’s goal is to create three alternating-current solar projects that each produce 30 megawatts a day at Fort Benning, Fort Gordon and Fort Stewart. These three solar sites are collectively part of the Army’s Georgia 3x30 project.
“The Fort Stewart solar project is but one of the Army’s more-than 20 large-scale renewable-energy generation opportunities that are either under construction or in some stage of development and due diligence,” said Amanda Simpson, executive director of the Army Office of Energy Initiatives. “These projects represent approximately 550 megawatts of potential renewable-energy generation at Army installations and contribute to the Army’s commitment to generate 1 gigawatt. That’s 1,000 megawatts of electricity to secure our bases and their mission.”
The $75 million project is billed as the least-cost incremental next step for energy generation.
“The power from this array is actually going to feed into the local grid,” Simpson said. “And then, of course, Fort Stewart draws power from that grid, but this energy is going to be available to everyone. It is cheaper than building new, what we call brown-power (electricity produced from the combustion of fossil fuels) power plants, and it’s really going to be a very big asset to this community.”
Houser explained what the solar array will do for the community.
“It benefits the environment and what we’re doing here doesn’t put over pressure on our rates so it benefits all of our rate payers,” he said.
Chuck Eaton, the Georgia Public Service Commission chairman, said the solar array “helps to make our military bases more competitive here in Georgia, and we want to do whatever we can to support that.”