Two large-scale Alabama Power renewable energy solar projects were officially opened last week when ribbons were cut at the Fort Rucker and Anniston Army Depot solar fields. Both solar plants are the result of collaboration between the U.S. Army, the respective Army installations and Alabama Power.
“Our gathering here today represents a significant milestone,” Jim Heilbron, senior vice president and senior production officer at Alabama Power, told the group assembled at Fort Rucker. “It was a little less than a year ago that we broke ground for the Fort Rucker solar project, and it is wonderful to see how far we’ve come.”
The 10-megawatt project at Fort Rucker comprises more than 115,000 solar panels on 90 acres. The Anniston Army Depot project comprises more than 87,000 solar panels and also approximately 90 acres. It is a seven-megawatt plant.
A first step
Julia Segars, vice president of Alabama Power, told the group gathered in Anniston, “It is important to note that this was a local job. Most construction workers on this project were from the local area with more than 150 on site at the peak of construction.
“And this project is further strengthening our relationship with a valued partner, the Anniston Army Depot, which is so vital to the economy and quality of life in East Alabama, as well as to the defense of the country,” Segars continued. “We believe good relationships are at the foundation of our mission to elevate Alabama, and we’re very happy to be a part of today’s ceremony and excited about what the Anniston Army Depot project means to the future of energy.”
Fort Rucker Garrison Commander Col. Shannon Miller said, “Energy reliability is not one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of mission success in the Army, but when you think about it, the Department of Defense is the largest consumer of energy in the United States government and the majority of the energy consumed in the army is at the installation level.
“So this solar project we see before us today,” Miller continued, “is the first step toward energy resiliency and to help us continue our mission during long-term grid outages.”
Increasing energy security
The two projects are part of three large-scale energy generation projects being developed on Army installations in Alabama and are part of an Army commitment to support the development of one gigawatt of new renewable energy and sustainability projects at or near Army installations by 2025. The third Alabama project is an eight-megawatt solar project at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.
“In my position I have witnessed first-hand the effectiveness of collaboration in making projects such as this a reality,” Michael McGhee, executive director of the Army Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI) said. “We are reminded today that renewable and alternative energy produced on or near army installations increases energy security and resiliency for both the installations and the local power grids.”
Through the OEI, the Army seeks to improve energy security and resiliency on its installations by enabling new generation, energy storage and energy control systems to support direct routing of electricity to essential requirements in the event of a grid disruption or other power emergencies.
“So this solar field here is helping secure the future not only for the army and Fort Rucker, but also for the Wiregrass area,” McGhee concluded.
Good for customers
Both projects, owned by Alabama Power, will generate electricity that will flow back into Alabama Power’s grid as part of the company’s generation portfolio. Alabama Power retains the rights to the energy and the renewable energy credits (RECs) from the project to serve its customers with renewable energy. The company can also sell the energy and the RECs, together or separately, to third parties for the benefit of customers.
“Alabama Power is very proud to partner with the military to assist in meeting their goals. This is a great day and we look forward to a lasting and long partnership with the military,” Heilbron concluded.
The projects at Fort Rucker and Anniston Army Depot provide benefits to all Alabama Power customers because of long-term power contracts between the company and the two military installations. Both Army facilities will continue to purchase their electricity requirements from Alabama Power under separate and existing electric service agreements.