SunPower nears construction on 10-MW solar project at Alabama Army base

SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR) said June 3 that it expects to start construction this month on a 10-MW (dc) photovoltaic solar plant that is expected to generate up to 18,000 megawatt hours per year for the Redstone Arsenal U.S. Army post in Alabama.

SunPower is delivering the energy from the plant under a power purchase agreement, allowing the Army to buy 100% of the power generated by the plant and avoid the costs of power plant construction, maintenance and operation.

“This represents a continuation of the Army’s deployment of renewable energy at installations across the country. It is symbolic of the changing dynamics of energy produced in the United States, especially in the Southeast,” said Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Energy and Sustainability). “The project substantially increases the amount of installed solar power in Alabama at no additional cost to consumers.”

“Solar is cost-competitive with traditional energy sources today, and is helping the U.S. military reduce operational costs,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “We commend Redstone Arsenal for managing its significant energy demand by relying on abundant, renewable solar power.”

The innovative project, developed by Redstone Arsenal’s Directorate of Public Works, the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Huntsville Center’s Energy Division, is the first power purchase agreement project solicited through a renewable and alternative energy Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC) awarded by Huntsville Center. It will involve a 27-year Renewable Energy Services Agreement and lease with SunPower, which has designed the project, and will construct, operate and maintain it.

Under the power purchase agreement, SunPower will deliver approximately 18,000 megawatt hours to the Army annually. All electricity generated by the plant will be purchased at a cost equal to or less than Redstone Arsenal’s current and projected utility rates. The solar system is also being designed as micro-grid ready so it may be connected to a future micro-grid and thereby contribute to the overall energy security of the installation.

SunPower designed and is installing a SunPower Oasis Power Plant system at the site. The Oasis system is a fully-integrated, modular solar power block that is engineered for rapid and cost-effective deployment of utility-scale solar projects while optimizing land use. The technology includes robotic solar panel cleaning capability that uses 75% less water than traditional cleaning methods and can help improve system performance by up to 15%.

The U.S. Army has a goal to derive 25% of total energy consumed from renewable sources by 2025, as well as a commitment to deploy one gigawatt of renewable energy on Army installations by 2025.

SunPower has installed more than 100 MW of solar power at 33 federal government project sites, including some of the largest operating solar power plants on U.S. military installations. Operational projects include more than 28 MW at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and 13.78 MW at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.