Moody Air Force Base in Georgia is getting 2.5 megawatts of solar power. That may seem like peanuts compared to other new solar arrays at military facilities in the US, which have been coming down the pipeline at 30-50 megawatts and more. However, in this case, size doesn’t matter. The new array is smallish but it will help Moody achieve two important Department of Defense goals: mission-critical resilience and energy independence. What, so nuclear, coal, and natural gas don’t fit the bill?
Why Not Nuclear, Coal, Or Natural Gas?
Why, indeed. The solar power project is part of a new $11.2 million energy makeover that will save the facility more than $21 million over the next 23 years, so there’s that.
A press release announcing the new PV installation also notes that solar power will “defer current energy that is being sourced from nuclear, coal and gas sources for a more sustainable alternative.” It’s unclear what they mean by sustainable (CleanTechnicais looking into that), but one good guess would be sustainable as it relates to resiliency and energy independence.
On-site solar is one of the strategies DoD is pursuing to ensure a steady supply of electricity at its facilities. In other words, they want to go off grid, because transmission lines can be vulnerable to disruption, attack, or sabotage. Power plants fueled by coal and natural gas don’t fit the bill, partly because their supply chain — railways and pipelines — involves similar vulnerabilities.
As for building new nuclear power plants at military facilities, that’s a possibility, though a remote one. The Department of the Navy studied the issue back in 2011 and jotted down a list of benefits. They also took note of significant obstacles:
“Finding specific sites for nuclear power plants on or near military installations will be challenging. There are many considerations that affect whether a site is appropriate. Some of the considerations relate to safety and others to limiting risks of attack or sabotage, and still others to public opinion. Being located on a military installation provides some advantages, but it also imposes some constraints on how portions of the installation near the nuclear power plant can be used…”
For the record, wind turbines are generally not a good fit for military facilities where air traffic is a consideration, so that’s why the emphasis is typically on solar power when the topic turns to renewable energy for DoD.
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