Balfour Beatty Communities, LLC and SolarCity have announced plans to provide up to 4,700 military homes with solar energy systems at Balfour Beatty-managed residential communities on Fort Bliss, Texas, and the adjacent White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. The 13.2 megawatt project is an equipment lease arrangement, primarily financed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which directly supports the U.S. Army’s vision for ‘Net Zero’ energy consumption at all installations.
This project represents the next and largest phase of SolarStrong, SolarCity’s five-year plan to build more than $1 billion in solar projects for up to 120,000 military homes throughout the United States. SolarCity expects to initiate construction in January, and is initially seeking to fill more than 100 installation, electrical, and maintenance jobs connected to the project.
The Defense Department is currently the largest energy consumer in the United States and has designated Fort Bliss a “Net Zero Installation”, meaning the Army expects the installation to produce as much energy as it uses while sending no waste to landfills and maximizing water reuse. Balfour Beatty Communities is the Army’s only military housing partner on Net Zero Installations at both Fort Bliss and Fort Carson (CO) and, with family housing responsible for close to 20% of a typical installation’s energy, waste and water footprint, it is important the company provides proactive support. The projects will also help the military meet Department of Defense goals to have 25 percent of its energy requirements met by renewable energy by 2025.
Through an innovative financing model, the Army and military families at Fort Bliss will benefit from a cleaner, more sustainable energy solution without incurring any cost to develop, install or operate the solar systems.
Balfour Beatty Communities is also using this project as a catalyst for energy education for residents of all ages. Two homes at Fort Bliss have already been outfitted with the solar systems and will be used to demonstrate how solar energy is produced, how residents can use online tools to monitor solar output, and how they can get more involved with renewable energy and conservation behaviors.
SolarCity will engineer, install and maintain the solar systems at Fort Bliss and WSMR which, at 1,700 and 3,200 square miles respectively, represent two of the Army’s largest installations. Once fully deployed, the project will create the nation’s largest solar-powered community, generating more than 21,120,000 kilowatt hours per year of clean, renewable energy from more than 50,000 solar panels, while offsetting more than 25 percent of the electricity typically used in each community. The electric utilities which serve this area, El Paso Electric and Rio Grande Electric, provided invaluable support and input to make these projects possible.
“The number of soldiers assigned to Fort Bliss is expected to exceed 30,000 by the end of the year, and providing efficient solar electricity to installation residents helps the Army facilitate its strategic growth in El Paso,” said SolarCity Vice President of Solar Development Aaron Gillmore, who is also a veteran U.S. Navy Officer. “In partnership with Balfour Beatty Communities we’re helping to secure more of the installation’s electricity supply from a domestic, renewable source.”