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News | March 15, 2017

Solar array project set to begin on Vandenberg

By Senior Airman Robert J. Volio 30th Space Wing Public Affairs

An energy company recently awarded a power purchase agreement is set to design and build a 28-megawatt solar photovoltaic array, beginning in May, here.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, will span approximately 200 acres in the old east housing area and will be tied directly into the base’s power grid.

“The solar project is a system designed to supply solar power by means of photovoltaics,” said Ken Domako, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron programs optimization chief. “The panels absorb the sun’s rays as a source of energy for generating electricity. It utilizes a power purchase agreement with a third party, SunPower, who will own, operate and maintain the system for 26 years.”

While expected to be one of the largest photovoltaic arrays in the Air Force, the project will also reduce electrical demand and save the Air Force a significant amount of money annually.

“Base electrical demand from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company will be reduced by 35 percent, and the Air Force will save approximately $1.1 million a year, for 26 years,” said Brad King, 30th CES director of planning and programming.

The installation of the solar panels are expected to bolster mission security and success.

“This project not only provides significant cost avoidance for the Air Force, but a redundant, behind the meter source of energy for the installation and its critical space launch and tracking mission,” said Dan Gerdes, Air Force Civil Engineer Center rates and renewables division chief. “Using a long-term contract with fixed costs ensures we have the electricity we need, when we need it and broadens the pool we have for power sources there. This is one step closer to our target of full energy assurance for key Air Force missions.”

Additionally, in the event of an outage, Team V will still be able to maintain power with the new system in place.

“Because the power is being produced on the installation, the base will have a higher degree of control over its power systems,” said Gerdes. “In the event of a grid failure off base, Vandenberg will still have some mission capability.”

Obtaining the contract to begin working on the solar panels and finishing the project are tasks that required successful communication and a total team effort.

“The project’s success is due in fact to the extraordinary efforts of all team members,” said Domako. “Without the strong communication during the award process, the project may have never happened. The Defense Logistics Agency and AFCEC East played a vital role in that aspect.”

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Vandenberg Air Force Base website.