The US Army has just unveiled its brand new White Sands Missile Range Solar Power System in New Mexico. This system is the largest solar installation anywhere in the world and has a solar carport of 375 kilowatts and a 4.1 megawatt ground-mounted, low-concentration photovoltaic power plant.
The White Sands solar array system covers 42 acres of the 3,200 square missile range and had no startup cost. It broke ground in April 2012 and was online and ready for action by December 2012. Siemens, Inc. built the system and will operate and maintain it. The US Army will pay Siemens under a power purchase agreement – meaning the Army will pay an agreed-upon rate for 25 years (in this case).
15,000 solar panels comprise the installation and are mounted on Solaria Corporation’s STS-Azimuth tracker. This enables individual models to adjust to the most efficient angle in order to capture maximum sunlight during the day. In fact, Solaria believes the tracker will yield 30% more energy than horizontal trackers.
This solar array will save the Army $930,000 annually.
Before the Army’s White Sands solar array, the largest one was a 2 megawatt installation in Puglia, Italy. The Puglia array was also a low-concentration photovoltaic system. These systems are not as efficient as high-concentration systems, but they are perfect for utility-scale operations where real estate is plentiful and inexpensive.