Fort McCoy News October 28, 2016

Renewable energy: Post incorporates solar power

October is Energy Action Month. One way to observe the month is to look at ways renewable energy can light the way to future energy savings. At Fort McCoy, solar power is part of that effort, said Fort McCoy Energy Manager Michael Kelley with the Directorate of Public Works (DPW).

According to the Department of Energy, the first silicon solar cell — the precursor of all solar-powered devices seen today — was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years.

"We're always looking at ways that renewable energy can contribute to our energy savings at Fort McCoy," Kelley said. "Though our use of solar power is not as large as some areas, it is a part of many of our energy-savings initiatives at many areas throughout the post."

A solar panel is used to power cameras along a Homestation Training Lane on Fort McCoy’s North Post.
Sign shop employees install a solar panel on a pedestrian crossing sign on Fort McCoy's North Post June 30. Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

Recent solar-power additions at Fort McCoy include pedestrian-crossing and stop signs with flashing LED lights. The signs have an attached solar panel to recharge them throughout the day.

"We also have (SolarWall brand) transpired solar collectors installed on five buildings," Kelley said. "These were installed in 2013 on three of the maintenance buildings — 761, 1762, and 1763 — as well as the new Central Issue Facility (building 780) and Tactical Equipment Maintenance Facility (building 3049)."

The sun strikes the panels mounted on the south face of each building and heats the air in the gap between the panels and the building.

"The heated air is then drawn into the building," Kelley said. "This lessens the load on the building furnace, as the air it's required to heat has already been preheated. We have documented some cost savings from the SolarWall."

Kelley said 71 latrines on the Range Complex also are powered or heated by solar photovoltaic panels as well as other systems that require low energy intake.

Additionally, Kelley said Fort McCoy is finalizing plans to participate in a new program with Xcel Energy called "Solar*Connect Community," which is a centrally located solar photovoltaic panel array owned by Xcel that provides electricity to participating subscribers.

A solar panel is used to power cameras along a Homestation Training Lane on Fort McCoy's North Post.
A solar panel is used to power cameras along a
Homestation Training Lane on Fort McCoy's North
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

"Two solar gardens are to be built in Wisconsin during 2016 — one in La Crosse County and one in Eau Claire County," Kelley said. "They are scheduled to be operational by December. Each solar garden will cover approximately seven acres and produce 1 megawatt of power. Fort McCoy will subscribe for the maximum of 400 kilowatts."

Renewable energy credits will be retired in the subscriber's name by the power company, and monthly credit on the electric bill will begin immediately, he said.

"The estimated payback is about 20 years, with credits continuing for the remainder of the 25-year contract," Kelley said. "This means that once our initial investment is recovered, all credits for the remainder of the contract will be money in the bank for Fort McCoy."

Based on fiscal year 2015 data, a 400-kilowatt subscription would offset 1.5 percent of Fort McCoy's total electric usage and 0.4 percent of its total energy usage, Kelley said.

Fort McCoy's efforts to always find ways to improve energy efficiency also aligns with National Energy Action Awareness Month ideals, Kelley said.

In his 2016 proclamation to open Energy Action Month, President Barack Obama said it is a good time for all Americans to re-examine how they can save energy and reduce energy usage.

"During National Energy Action Month, we rededicate ourselves to securing a more prosperous and energy-independent future," the proclamation states. "As climate change continues to threaten our planet, we must join together to reduce our carbon emissions, protect our environment, and leave behind a cleaner and more resilient world for generations to come."

Kelley said Fort McCoy will remain on the hunt to improve energy efficiency and also incorporate renewable energy sources. "We'll continue to revisit these technologies periodically as equipment costs drop and as technologies change," he said.

For more information about energy-saving actions at Fort McCoy, call 608-388-8682.

   (Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office and the Directorate of Public Works.)