FORT HOOD (CBSDFW.COM) – Tucked away just to the east of the on-post neighborhood it’ll soon help power, four gravelly acres have been claimed by about 3,000 solar panels.
To hear project organizers tell it, the hope is that the new solar park will spark an interest in renewable energy –– not just at this behemoth Central Texas Army post, but at military facilities across the nation.
“We’re hoping that more people will see it; that other places –– not just Fort Hood – but other bases … will see that this is a viable option and follow the example,” said Sandra Swain, spokeswoman for Universal Services Fort Hood.
Swain’s employer owns and manages Liberty Village, one of 13 on-post neighborhoods. This was one of the first privatized housing ventures on post –– a practice that is now gospel at Fort Hood, where private companies manage all on-site housing.
According to Brian Dosa, Fort Hood’s director of public works, the solar park will power about 20 percent of that neighborhood’s 300 single-family residences.
This is something that will directly help soldiers who live on post: Swain says they get an allotment of electricity each month. If they exceed that, the soldier must pay the difference.
“That’s a large offset,” Swain said. “That’s dropping the likelihood that they’re going to go over that usage.”
Dosa said Universal Services approached the Army with plans for the solar park in March of last year. The Corps of Engineers secured the four-acre location while Universal Services found financing. By November, the two had broken ground on the site.
And on Tuesday, the solar panels will be activated.
“So, from concept to ribbon cutting, about 13 months,” Dosa said of the project’s timeline. “It can be a bureaucratic organization in a lot of ways and we were able to gain the approvals necessary. My staff, DPW at Fort Hood, did an extraordinary job to get this fast-tracked for approval.”
The project is in line with the U.S. Army’s Net Zero Energy Goal. Launched in November of last year, the Army paired with the Environmental Protection Agency to reach a goal of ‘net zero’ on its energy, water and waste usage.
In layman terms, the goal is to produce as much as energy as it uses.
“As we build new buildings on Fort Hood, they’re all coming in with solar thermal to supplement the hot water supply for those buildings,” Dosa said.
And, indeed, speaking about ‘green’ projects on-post, Dosa rattled off a laundry list of environmentally minded projects.
There’s the five dining facilities that use solar thermal energy for hot water. There’s the LEED-gold certified chapel that opened last August. A $500 million medical center is also eyeing gold certification.
Another private home building company, Lend Lease Public Partnerships, built 232 homes that reached LEED-silver certification in on-post communities separate from Liberty Village.
Buildings in the midst of renovations are all being rebuilt to meet LEED certifications –– some of which workers are “tearing them down to the foundations, to the walls,” Dosa said.
But the $3 million solar park still stands out –– both as a point of pride, and as something to look up to.
“We have lots of green projects on post,” Dosa said. “But I wish we had something that was similarly scoped, and we don’t.”