Solar industry powerhouse Sunpower Corp. is busy creating new green jobs in the renewable energy sector, the latest endeavor being a group of contracts for a minimum of 20 megawatts in new solar installations for the U.S. Navy, Air Force, General Services Administration and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. All together, SunPower estimates that the construction work will create about 1,000 new green jobs in the local communities where the installations are located, in addition to saving taxpayers money by helping to shift the U.S. military into a more stable, low risk form of energy. The new projects also illustrate how the Obama administration has stepped up the pace of solar installations at government facilities. SunPower has been installing solar arrays at U.S. government facilities since 1999, for a total of 20 megawatts to date. That’s equal to the minimum amount of solar capacity that will be installed under the new contracts.
New SunPower Solar Installations
The new contracts are peppered around midwest and western U.S. They include a 2 MW system in Colorado, a 1.8 MW system in Indiana, various U.S. Navy facilities in the southwest ranging up to 15 MW (for a total of up to 40 MW), and a 15 MW facility in Arizona. The latter, located at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, will be the largest solar installation to date at any government facility. Expected to be completed next summer, it will supply about half of the energy used at the base, which just goes to show how rapidly we can shift out of fossil fuels given the financial resources and the willpower.
NREL and Solar Energy
The Colorado installation will be at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s campus in Golden. NREL is no stranger to solar installations, having developed a passive solar energy system called transpired solar air collector technology, back in the 1990’s. It was recently installed on the south wall of the new Research Support Facility. It consists simply of a dark, perforated metal plate that is warmed by sunlight. A fan slowly draws the warm air into the building, preheated by as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In yet another indication of how the pace of solar installations has ramped up under the Obama administration, this will be the first transpired solar air system at the NREL campus since the 1990’s, when it was used to power equipment at a waste handling facility.