Nations Largest Solar Plant Goes Online at Nellis AFB


We certainly live in exciting times for solar energy; Just days ago the nation’s most powerful solar plant went online in Colorado and now the U.S. Air Force has one upped it. The new solar array at Nellis AFB will put out enough power to supply 25 percent of the power used by the 12,000 people on base.

“Nellis, the ‘Home of the Fighter Pilot,’ is now home to the largest solar electric plant in all of North America,” said Col. Michael Bartley, 99th Air Base Wing commander. “Our base and indeed our entire nation will benefit from the predictable, secure supply of clean energy that this landmark power plant is now generating.”

The Air Force is the largest consumer of electricity in the US Government so this is definitely a step in the right direction. In addition, the 140 acres of land the solar array was installed on is a capped landfill; so the possible uses for this real estate are pretty limited to begin with.

The solar field itself consists of more than 72,000 photovoltaic panels that track the sun; constructed from nearly 6,000,000 cells. It generates 14 megawatts of clean energy thereby reducing the CO2 emissions by 24,000 tons per year. That’s the equivalent of pulling 185,000 cars off the road.

Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons noted that clean energy projects like this have the potential to reduce United States dependence on foreign and nonrenewable energy sources.

“Nellis is now generating 14 megawatts of clean, renewable energy–energy that meets the demands and the needs of Nellis AFB,” Governor Gibbons continued. “More importantly, its meeting the future. It’s demonstrating that we can use the abundant renewable resource of solar energy in the United States.”

I spent a few years working for a major defense contractor whose factory co-existed with the Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. Our main plant building was over a mile long and as I drove into work each day I always wondered at how much energy we would be able to save if we covered that enormous span of roof baking in the hot Texas sun with Solar Panels. I know at the time it was not financially beneficial to do so but that place used an amazing amount of electricity. Now with new technology driving the price down where solar is competitive with the price of coal power we may be seeing large installations like this more and more.