Redstone solar project moving along

By William S. Farrow Huntsville Center Public Affairs

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Driving along Redstone Road on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, you will see a large solar array under construction.

The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville awarded the contract to SunPower Corporation in late April 2016. When complete, the array is expected to generate 10 megawatts of solar energy.

The project, developed by Redstone Arsenal’s Directorate of Public Works, the Army Office of Energy Initiatives and Huntsville Center’s Energy Division, is the first Power Purchase Agreement project solicited through the renewable and alternative energy Multiple Award Task Order Contract awarded by Huntsville Center.

The solar power system, located on approximately 113 acres originally was set to be operational by December 2016. However, there have been unexpected challenges for the project.

“We had issues with endangered bat regulations and some issues with 100-year flood plain boundaries that had to be verified by the Arsenal’s department of public works,” said Victor Petty, project manager for Huntsville Center’s Power Purchase Agreement Program.

Once the sites were renegotiated, the project moved forward after the delay.

“We’re back in business with no major issues,” Petty said. “It’s so good to see the work getting done, and now the piles are going in and the panels are going up, so we’re very pleased.”

Michael McGhee, U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives executive director, said this project includes the Army's first privately funded, commercially available and economically viable battery energy storage system. 

McGhee said SunPower Corporation will incorporate the battery system for the solar project to reduce demand costs at Redstone Arsenal by using energy stored in the battery to offset what would have been higher demand charges on the Arsenal’s utility bill.  He said the project will be compatible with a potential future microgrid to further enhance energy security and resiliency at Redstone Arsenal. 

“The Army is collaborating with industry and utilities on renewable and alternative energy projects that will strengthen energy security and sustainability at our installations and the surrounding communities,” McGhee said.

“The Army is seeking opportunities to reduce electricity costs and enable more projects that bring an ‘islandable’ capability.  Such projects will integrate energy storage (such as batteries or fuel), power generation, and energy switching and control systems to isolate and dispatch the flow of power to where and when it is needed in the event of a grid disruption,” he said.

The Redstone Arsenal project is scheduled to be operational by the end of this year.


Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.