Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) and SunPower Corp. announced an agreement to design and build a 6-megawatt solar photovoltaic power system at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Construction will begin this month on the 30-acre site, and the plant is expected to be operational by summer 2011.
The project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), as a result of government requirements for federal facilities to use increasing amounts of renewable energy. SunPower and Springs Utilities will each own 50 percent of the renewable energy credits (RECs) and environmental benefits associated with the system.
"This solar power system will create local jobs, reduce the demand for fossil fuels, and improve air quality in our community," said Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte. "We are confident that, with SunPower as our experienced solar provider, the Air Force Academy solar plant will be built to high quality standards and will meet forecasted output over the 25-year life of the system."
The system will use high-efficiency SunPower solar panels with the SunPower Tracker(R) system. The Tracker follows the sun's movement during the day, increasing sunlight capture by up to 25 percent over conventional fixed-tilt systems, while significantly reducing land use requirements. The system will be designed to meet USAFA's stringent engineering design standards.
"The 30-acre, 6-megawatt system at this site, where Air Force cadets and officers alike engage in thousands of training flights each year, will be a testament to the fact that solar power provides a secure, independent power source in the U.S.," said Jim Pape, president of SunPower's residential and commercial business group. "Reliability and quality are the hallmarks of SunPower systems. We look forward to working with the Springs Utilities and the Air Force Academy on this very exciting project."
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the system at the Air Force Academy will avoid more than 9,400 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, the equivalent of removing 40,900 cars from Colorado's highways over 25 years.
SunPower has worked with federal agencies since 1999, and has more than 50 megawatts of solar power systems installed or under contract at government facilities, including systems at Nellis Air Force Base and the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Air Force Academy will host a ground-breaking event this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. MDT to announce construction of the solar installation. Along with Colorado Springs Utilities and SunPower, USAFA will share a brief overview of the solar power plant features and explain what the array means to the community, the Academy and Springs Utilities.