Today the U.S. Air Force celebrates the completion of North America's largest solar photovoltaic system at Nellis Air Force Base. A joint project of the U.S. Air Force, MMA Renewable Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity, LLC , SunPower Corporation , and Nevada Power Company, the 14 megawatt Nellis solar energy system will generate more than 30 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity annually and supply approximately 25 percent of the total power used at the base, where 12,000 people live and work.
Combining technology and systems expertise from SunPower Corporation and financing by MMA Renewable Ventures with discounted purchase commitments by the U.S. Air Force, the innovative Nellis solar energy system demonstrates that the U.S. government's goals for enhancing security through energy independence can be met both economically and practically when the public and private sectors work together.
SunPower Corporation designed and built the photovoltaic power plant using its proprietary single-axis SunPower(R) T20 Tracker solar tracking system which follows the sun throughout the day and delivers up to 30 percent more energy than traditional fixed-tilt ground systems.
Equally innovative is the funding and ownership of the landmark solar energy system: MMA Renewable Ventures, LLC has financed and will operate the solar power plant, selling electricity to Nellis Air Force Base at a guaranteed fixed rate for the next 20 years. Nevada Power will support the project by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) generated by the solar array. MMA Renewable Ventures closed a fund for the system earlier this year with financing commitments from Citi, Allstate, and John Hancock Financial Services, with Merrill Lynch providing construction financing.
Dignitaries such as Air Force Assistant Secretary William Anderson and Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons will flip a switch marking full operation of the system at a ceremony to be held today at the Nellis base. A team including MMA Renewable Ventures, SunPower Corporation, and Nevada Power Company will join public officials in recognizing the United States Air Force for its commitment to national security, energy independence and environmental sustainability.
"This solar project at Nellis is a first step of many toward making renewable electricity integral to the operations of the U.S. Air Force," said Assistant Secretary Anderson. "As the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, the Air Force is well-positioned to promote both solar technology and new approaches to its implementation. This pioneering initiative is a good example of how a creative approach to public-private partnership can make our energy supply more sustainable, more secure and more affordable."
"The best way to secure a healthy and prosperous economy is to develop our affordable, reliable local resources," said Governor Gibbons. "With these 14 megawatts, Nellis Air Force Base is leading the country in solar energy deployment, a move that is good for the environment and our nation's energy security alike."
Covering 140 acres of land at the western edge of the Nellis base, the photovoltaic system comprises 72,000 solar panels using the SunPower Tracker technology. The energy generated will support over 12,000 military and civilians at Nellis who are responsible for Air Force advanced combat training, tactics development and operational testing.
"We are faced with an incredible opportunity to promote U.S. energy security by developing our own abundant domestic resources," said United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "Nevada and the United States have the technology and natural resources to serve our growing power demand with clean, renewable energy. I congratulate the Air Force for its continued leadership on clean power."
"Nellis, the 'Home of the Fighter Pilot,' is now home to the largest solar electric power plant in all of North America," said Colonel Michael Bartley, Nellis Air Force Base 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 project also provides a future test bed for the Department of Defense to assess the benefits of similar arrangements on installations across the United States."
"The Nellis project is a powerful demonstration of the U.S. Air Force's ability to execute on its aggressive goals for clean energy. From early concept through today's dedication, the Air Force collaborated closely with the strong coalition of partners instrumental in making this grand vision for solar a reality, and we look forward to maintaining that solid relationship over the long life of this clean energy system," said Matt Cheney, CEO of MMA Renewable Ventures. "The Nellis project further demonstrates how public-private partnership coupled with an innovative approach to third-party finance can make solar an affordable solution at even the largest scale."
"We congratulate the Air Force for having the vision to make solar power a mainstream energy source, and for hosting the largest solar photovoltaic system in the nation," said Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower. "Solar power is the fastest growing energy resource to help meet our escalating power demand, generating reliable, affordable power without creating emissions or waste. Nellis' decision to maximize the size and efficiency of its solar system underscores its commitment to secure energy and environmental preservation. We are proud that SunPower was selected by the Air Force to design, supply, and build this hallmark project."
"Working with partners, such as Nellis Air Force Base, to develop and generate solar energy projects is part of our strategy of providing clean, safe, reliable electricity to our customers at reasonable and predictable prices," said Michael Yackira, chief executive officer of Sierra Pacific Resources, parent company of Nevada Power. "Now that the Nellis solar energy system is on-line, the state of Nevada will be number one in the United States in solar generation per capita. We plan to expand our investments in renewable energy in order to increase the leadership position our company already has in renewable energy nationwide."