Military enlists sun to power homes at N.J. base

Solar energy is a proven asset on foreign battlefields, where soldiers utilize portable solar arrays to power remote, off-grid operations as well as small tactical devices. But solar energy is also becoming a regular part of America’s military personnel stateside.

And in 2013, E2 tracked a job announcement that shows just how important solar is to our military – and our economy.

In the first quarter of the year, 120 jobs were announced as part of a $35 million project to install solar panels on military housing units at Joint Military Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County, N.J.

Trinity Solar LLC, which partnered with True Green Capital Management, CIT Group, and United Communities (the private owner and manager of the base’s housing units), completed the 12.3 MW solar PV installation in November. It’s now one of the largest solar-powered military family housing communities in the nation.

Check out this video from Trinity Solar showing a birds-eye view of the project:

The project employed engineers, electricians, installers and maintenance workers. It’s expected to produce about 40 percent of the power for the 2,100 military family homes at the base, used by the Army, Navy, and Marines.

True Green’s Jeffrey Brown said the project demonstrates renewable energy’s increased national importance.

“Beyond its status as one of the largest military community-based photovoltaic power plants in the U.S., this is a strategic investment for our firm that reinforces the important role solar energy will play in our domestic energy mix in the coming years,” Brown said.

The military has its own financial reasons for deploying renewables on bases.

According to Pew Charitable Trusts’ January 2014 report Power Surge, the Department of Defense spends $4 billion annually on facility energy. Over the past decade, DoD has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs by deploying efficient and renewable technologies, according to the Pew report.

DoD has one of the world’s largest inventories of real estate, with 550,000 buildings and other structures encompassing roughly 2.3 billion square feet, according to Pew.

In addition to McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the military is pursuing large solar projects at David-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, Fort Bliss in West Texas, and elsewhere.

—Environmental Entrepreneurs