U.S. military could seed 100,000 acres of California desert with advanced solar technology

Over 100,000 acres across nine military installations in California could harness the sun’s energy and generate up to 7,000 megawatts of solar energy, or 30 times the electricity actually consumed by the Mojave and Colorado desert bases, according to a study released by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Installations and Environment. It would normally take seven nuclear power plants to produce that kind of power.

The report reflects a much larger DOD effort to install solar, wind, geothermal and other distributed energy technologies on military bases in order to cut back on a voracious, $4 billion-a-year appetite for electricity from the grid.

In fact, DOD says that new solar technologies, together with energy storage and smart-microgrid technology, could conceivably allow one of its bases to go “off-grid” for up to several months while still maintaining critical operations:

The DOD has the potential to dramatically increase its level of solar development using third-party capital and without compromising mission performance.

Thanks, in part, to chemistry innovations in crystalline silicon – a key sun-absorbing component of photovoltaic solar cells – the project could help the federal government save up to $100 million a year. According to the report, this chemistry makes it possible to afford the “most economic technology package” available for such a large-scale project.

Meeting 21st century energy demands means maximizing all domestic energy sources, and the DOD is on the right track with pursing the use of innovative products for renewable and alternative energy sources. And as we look to change how we produce and use energy other from other domestic sources – coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas from shale – chemistry will continue to provide the energy solutions we need to ensure a strong, secure and sustainable future.

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