in Houston, Texas
Army spends $1 million on solar array for Fort Bliss, solar output projections at 1 percent of total needed to power base
Friday, Apr 27, 2012, 02:01PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

This might be the solar energy industry’s cleverest pitch for a government subsidy yet, making sun power a matter of our national defense.

Fort Bliss, the nation’s sprawling U.S. Army base outside of El Paso, recently spent $1 million to put up a solar array, according to the Texas Tribune today.

This tax outlay is part of an Army test program to see if the base could by 2018 offset all of its resource use by producing its own energy and recycling all of its own water and waste.

Good luck with that.

This latest solar bivouac more than doubles the amount of energy not produced by conventional electricity. Which puts total solar output at exactly one percent of the total needed.

The Army concedes that Fort Bliss can never reach its energy neutrality with solar power alone, what with the relentless West Texas sun only shining half the day and storage technology still in its infancy.

Without subsidy from every branch of government, including the military, the solar industry in America could not exist and solar arrays like the one at Fort Bliss could not in any grunt’s lifetime pay for itself.

Fort Bliss would like to try some more solar, a multimillion-dollar, 20-megawatt system that would become one of the biggest in Texas. But with budget cuts and all, the Army thinks it might have to be done with private funding.

We’re pretty sure a private company would take advantage of the added benefit of the raised solar array and begin charging G.I.s for the covered parking they are now getting for free.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo 'west texas sunrise' by flickr user brighter than sunshine, used via a Creative Commons license.

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