How Green Was My Bankruptcy? U. S. Army Edition.

Guest Post by David Middleton

Great News! Siemens will generate an 18% return on a project that will have a negative return on investment (-9%)… All at the taxpayers’ expense!

At first glance, this looked too good to be true…

White Sands breaks ground on Army’s largest solar array

April 26, 2012

By Ms Miriam U Rodriguez (ATEC)

White Sands Missile Range leaders came out to break ground and to commemorate the start of a renewable energy project at the site of the new Solar Photo Voltaic Array Project, the Army’s largest solar array, April 19 on WSMR.

A 42-acre tract of land located about ¼ mile northeast of the Las Cruces Gate next to main post will be the site where 4.115 MW of single-axis vertical azimuth-tracking ground-mounted solar Photo Voltaic panels will be installed.

[...]

In conjunction with the 4.115 MW project, WSMR will also be installing a 350 kW solar PV Carport at the parking lot for the Headquarters Building 100.

[...]

The total cost of both projects is $16.8M with a cost of $3.77 per Watt.

The solar project is being funded within an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) utilizing an Energy Services Agreement (ESA) that the Huntsville Army Corp of Engineers (COE) has awarded to Siemens on behalf of WSMR. Under the awarded task order, Siemens will maintain and operate the equipment and will provide the energy to WSMR. This agreement is for a period of 25 years. The simple payback is 18.1 years. The energy being provided will cost the same that WSMR is currently paying the local utility company which is a blended rate of $0.08/kWh.

[...]

US Army

$3.77 per Watt is less than $4 million per MW. That’s a big deal. Solar PV usually runs from $5 to $8 million per MW of installed capacity and $0.08/kWh is dirt cheap by solar standards. $0.08/kWh is only 25% more expensive than the levelized generation cost of natural gas-fired electricity generation.

On top of all that, the Army didn’t have to pay any of the $16.8 million construction cost. Siemens would recoup its costs by selling the electricity to the Army at the current market rate. What a deal for the taxpayers! Green energy for the same price as dirty old energy!

It turns out that it actually is too good to be true…

Corps of Engineers completes Army’s largest solar array installation
January 22, 2013

By James W. Campbell, USACE

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (Jan. 22, 2013) — The largest solar power system in the U.S. Army is coming online at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and officials gathered Jan. 16, to mark the occasion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Energy Savings Performance Contract, or ESPC, project, awarded and managed by the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, provides the sprawling desert base with a new 4.465 megawatt solar photovoltaic system…

[...]

Along with being the largest solar project, there’s another first in how the system at White Sands Missile Range was funded.

“We used an Energy Services Agreement for the photovoltaic equipment along with the ESPC concept which was a first for the Army,” said Will Irby, Huntsville Center ESPC Program Manager.

An ESA is an arrangement whereby a third party owns, operates and maintains the power generation system and provides electricity to the customer. This third-party ownership mechanism allowed for a significant tax grant from that reduced the project cost by $6.1M, Irby said.

[...]

US Army

The taxpayers paid 27% of Siemens’ construction costs. The actual cost was $5.13 per Watt, $5.1 million per MW. A natural gas-fired plant costs $700,000 to $900,000 per MW. Since the taxpayers footed 27% of the up-front costs, Siemens can generate about an 18% annual return selling the electricity to the Army for $0.08/kWh…

(My return on investment calculation does not apply a discount rate or any other “time-value of money” measures.)

As if the economics of this weren’t bad enough, the 4.1 MW solar PV array covers 42 acres. That’s a generating density of 0.11 MW per acre. Natural gas-fired plants generate more than 6 MW per acre…

U.S. Army Dedicates 4.1 LCPV Solar Power Array at White Sands

By Renewable Energy World Editors
January 18, 2013

New Hampshire, USA — On Wednesday, January 16th, the U.S. Army dedicated its largest solar photovoltaic system at White Sands Missile Range, in a ceremony led by Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, White Sands commander. Bingham was joined by Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment for the ceremony and Judy Marks, president and CEO of Siemens Government Technologies. (see photo at the end of the article.)

“I came here about four months ago talking about how White Sands is a national treasure and now we can feel proud that we’re really on the environmental edge,” Bingham said. “It takes passion to do something like this. I’m just excited about the journey that will lie ahead.”

[…]

Renewable Energy World

If “White Sands is a national treasure,” wouldn’t you think that the gov’t might want to reduce, rather than expand, the footprint of electricity generation for the facility?

The new solar PV arrays are expected to provide up to 10% of the facility’s electricity demand at a full cost of $22.9 million and will cover 42 acres of “national treasure.” A couple of 7 MW natural-gas fired reciprocating engines could provide 100% of the facility’s electrical needs at a cost of $5.6 million and probably only occupy 2-3 acres of “national treasure.”

Natural gas prices would have to rise to ~$8/mcf (mmBTU) for the natural gas-fired reciprocating engines’ levelized cost to become as expensive as the solar LCVP installation. US natural gas prices are not expected to rise to any where near $8/mcf by 2020.

Unless the Obama Administration finds a way to shut down fracking and kill the shale boom, the real price of natural gas is unlikely to increase very much at all over the next 10-15 years.

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78 thoughts on “How Green Was My Bankruptcy? U. S. Army Edition.

  1. We have a similar sized eyesore at the Air Force. Academy. You have this pretty view destroyed by a giant eyesore. That they will tear down in a few years when we get more efficient technology.

  2. “How Green Was My Bankruptcy? U. S. Army Edition.” More mission creep, beyond Meals on Wheels International.

    Remember The Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1385 passed on June 18, 1878. Any use of the Armed Forces under Title 10 at the direction of the President will offend the Constitutional Law and Public Law prohibiting such action unless declared by the President of the United States and approved by Congress. Any infringement will be problematic for political and legal reasons.

  3. ‘A couple of 7 MW natural-gas fired reciprocating engines could provide 100% of the facility’s electrical needs at a cost of $5.6 million and probably only occupy 2-3 acres of “national treasure.”’

    I bet they would work at night, too.

  4. AF Academy eyesore installation; more efficient at what, measured how?

    The Solar Constant is ~1350 W·m^-2, equivalent to about 5 kWh·m^-2·day^-1 Who fails to do arithmetic is doomed, not least to failure.

  5. Bloke down the pub says:
    January 24, 2013 at 3:58 am
    Let’s see how well the panels stand up to the dusty environment.
    ——————–
    As this falls apart you will never hear another word about it.
    cn

  6. Don Allen says:
    January 24, 2013 at 3:59 am (Edit)
    Gen. Gwen Bingham
    Katherine Hammack
    Judy Marks

    Hmmmmm.
    —————————————————-

    Yes Don, my thoughts too. I see that Panetta is about to allow the girls into combat action soon as well.

    Proof of concept on something whose concept has already been proved seems a bit bizarre. Gesture politics I guess, plus a bit of sneaky accounting.

    Anyway, spending all this tax money on something that cannot really prove anything other than it works seems a bit silly at this point. Particularly as there are many niche installations around the world that shows it works in a limited way.

    I understand that even as PV cells fall in price over time that won’t have a huge impact on overall costs as the underpinning infrastructure is all very old and stable technology. Mind you , as Bloke says, we will at least get a decent handle on maintenance costs and degradation over time parameters.

  7. I got all excited to see this was tagged “New Hampshire” and less so when I found it’s just for the byline:

    By Renewable Energy World Editors
    January 18, 2013

    New Hampshire, USA — On Wednesday, January 16th, the U.S. Army dedicated its largest solar photovoltaic system at White Sands Missile Range,

    When I found the domain is owned by PennWell Corp in Tulsa OK, I figured there might be a magazine based in the great tech publishing town of Peterborough, NH. Indeed, while http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/magazine/renewable-energy-world/about lists a UK mailing address, it also lists several NH phone #s. I picked one at random and got to http://www.reversenumberdatabase.com/searchResults?phone=603-925-3211 which says it’s a landline owned by Freedom Ring Communications, LLC.

    I didn’t bother to dig any deeper. I did find some other stories by the Editors with a New Hampshire byline, and concluded that 1) it wasn’t a typo, and 2) White Sands remains in New Mexico.

  8. Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    It seems the Big Government know-it-alls and especially those in the military can always find a new way to waste the money they take from us. Thanks, O, and thanks too to all you Big Government spenders in Congress. How’s all that Big Government, Daddy-Knows-Best working out for us?

  9. White Sands National Monument is naturally expanding and has little need of preservation. But most of your other points are good ones.

    Everything outside the monument area is normal, worthless scrub desert. The monument area is naturally occurring gypsum sands that has its own unique ecology due to the alkali “sands”.

    Near Edwards AFB, there’s a heliostat array that I would wager has some of the same good intentions behind it.

  10. I know that the USA is even more car(auto)-oriented than we here are in UK.

    But the thought of a solar powered carport quite boggles my mind. Why does a carport need to be powered for anything? To keep the autos nice and cosy in the winter and cool them in the summer? Poor things.

  11. The cost analysis for an uncontrollable energy source such as solar is not accurate nor complete until the side effect costs are included. They occur because there is a need to maintain
    backup generating capacity : the sun doesn’t shine all the time and sometimes none of the time -
    this means that such capacity cannot replace existing capacity,which costs money to operate even if it never generates any power at all. Only generation fuel costs can be eliminated by solar.
    And often fuel is required to spin the backup generators, even though they are producing no power. In effect, money is being paid both to the solar provider and the backup capacity provider for the same power.

  12. How’s the wildlife under the panels doing now? Shouldn’t WWF & Sierra Club be concerned? Isn’t this a scar on Mother Gaia?

  13. I am extremely familiar with that area. Lots of sagebrush, some mesquite, etc. fire ecology.
    I assume they will have use herbicides to keep the area from over growing. and some sort
    of fire protection…
    “Happiness is a Warm Fast Breeder.”-old Hanford Area T-shirt..

  14. David Banks,

    “We have a similar sized eyesore at the Air Force. Academy. You have this pretty view destroyed by a giant eyesore. That they will tear down in a few years when we get more efficient technology.”

    No need to tear it down. This is at a missile test facility. Assuming it survives that long without being destroyed by an errant missile they will just use it for target practice.

  15. These are pivoting panels? Wasn’t there an earlier post that pivoting panels don’t hold up / work as well as static panels due to issues with the motors and power usage for moving the panels?

  16. What’s the ROI on a hand grenade or a bullet? Nothing the Army does returns a profit, so why should this?

  17. Bob Rogers says:
    January 24, 2013 at 6:25 am
    “What’s the ROI on a hand grenade or a bullet? Nothing the Army does returns a profit, so why should this?”

    Great argument, let me finish it for you: Dollars are free. You can print as many as you need.

  18. Make no mistake about — much of the US military’s spending on green energy sources has nothing to do with any military needs and everything to do with promote this administration’s green agenda. It’s another form of taxpayer funded subsidy.

    If you’re deployed to somewhere like a remote installation in Afghanistan, it makes sense to use as much alternative energy sources as possible. It’s extremely expensive to haul fuel into remote sites and reducing the amount of anything we haul in reduces risk to our troops.

    But we don’t need solar installations at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada that will never generate enough electricity to pay for themselves and the Navy doesn’t need biodiesel that costs up to $48 a gallon and neither does the Air Force need biofuels that cost up to $59 a gallon.

  19. the sun doesn’t shine all the time and sometimes none of the time

    It does tend to shine a lot in the desert. Sunshine days at WSMR: 293 (80%). Edwards: 279 (76%). There are sunnier places in the US, but not very many.

  20. Carbon sequestration in funny money. What an Idea. Is that economic perpetual motion, claiming carbon credits for sequestration in bills, liquidating the credits into more bills?

  21. When we start exporting natural gas and begin to use it in our truck fleet, the price isn’t going to stay as low as it is now. Not that renewables will ever be able to compete, but predicting stable natural gas prices for ten or fifteen years is a bad guess.

  22. Bob Rogers says:
    January 24, 2013 at 6:25 am
    What’s the ROI on a hand grenade or a bullet? Nothing the Army does returns a profit, so why should this?

    The taxpayers have the negative ROI.

    Technically the taxpayers will always have a negative ROI when it comes to utility bills for gov’t installations, because these are not investments.

    The problem here is that the taxpayers are spending $0.09/kWh for solar PV that only works about 6 hours per day, rather than $0.06/kWh for electricity that works close to 24/7/365.

    If I applied a discount rate to the “investment,” the economics for solar PV would become even worse.

  23. Capacity factor for Solar PV in New Mexico: about 25%
    Capacity factor for a natural gas powered generating plant: about 90%

    That is, 1 MW of install capacity of solar would yield about 6 MWhr / day (1 MW * 24 hr/day * 0.25).

    The gas plant would yeild about 22 MW-hours / day (1 MW * 24 hr/day * 0.9).

    Lesson: As a rule of thumb, the capacity factor of solar PV is about 20% (I gave solar PV a break for the dessert southwest and said 25%). So when you see that X megawatts of solar have been installed in Podunk, divide by 4 or 5 to get the actual power averaged over time.

  24. and who thinks these things are going to last 25 years…..new technology will make them obsolete before they even have to do maintenance

  25. Latimer: I read you need cooling in a carport in AZ because the electric car batteries are destroyed by heat in the very hot southern states.
    I, too, wonder about the dust. Solar panels only work well if they are clean. Not much water available and then to use it to wash the a panels seems a bit crazy. None of this helps the environment, but I guess that’s not the real purpose for it anyway.

  26. I wonder if the White Sands facility will be able to tap into this new DOE effort-

    “As the military continues to move away from dependence on fossil fuels, the Defense Department plans to spend $20 million on a fleet of electric vehicles unique in their ability to export their own power and offset their cost.”

    http://science.dodlive.mil/2013/01/23/dod-electric-vehicles-will-supply-power-to-local-grids/

    I assume Concurrent Technologies Corp, and the DOE will find a creative way to finance the projects. It will be interesting to see how much it costs to put two way charging station in place.

  27. I do the design for a lot of military projects that include PV. It is the standard now that almost all projects generate a min of 30% of electrical needs. 3rd party cost benefit analysis is required at the end of each project and the payback is usually over 60 years.
    We all know the saying, payback’s a …….

  28. I’d have to worry about those responsible in the U S Army who think this was a good investment…

    ‘Ok, guys – we’re planning to use a new supplier of machine gun shells for use in Afghanistan. ony 25% of the shell casings contain real bullets – the rest are blanks. Do you have any problem with that..?’
    ‘Er – with respect, sir….’
    ‘Good – no questions then. Supplies – go ahead and order them…’

  29. @kakatoa says:
    January 24, 2013 at 7:22 am

    So they plan to charge the vehicles when demand is low (and electricity costs less) and then use the vehicles to supply power back to the grid when demand is high. Does nobody need to use these vehicles during peak times?

    So we’ll now have military vehicles that will only work, well when? We can’t use them if they’re charging and we can’t use them if they’re being used to put power back into the grid. So what we will end up with is really expensive self-propelled batteries, I guess.

    This is your tax dollars at work.

    It makes you think that maybe we can cut the defense budget without endangering national security, doesn’t it?

  30. The Solar Constant is ~1350 W·m^-2, equivalent to about 5 kWh·m^-2·day^-1 Who fails to do arithmetic is doomed, not least to failure.

    That is the free space number, not at the bottom of the atmosphere. In Colorado at 5000 feet it is probably about 1100 w/m2 and at White Sands at about 2000 feet it is probably about 1040 w/m2.

    The biggest problem at White sands will literally be the white sand degrading the arrays. It would be interesting to monitor the long term output. And… That is the peak power number as well the averaged number is much lower.

    I do support such initiatives and what the military is not talking about is that this is part of an initiative to make bases energy independent.

  31. Fire danger in that area is kept in check by (over) grazing. Of course cows like to chew on things (like wiring) so chances are they’ll fence in the 42 acres. Problem is the flammable grass will then grow back with a vengeance.

    Location wise it is not too bad of a choice, the land in that area has little use other than grazing at a load of about 1 cow per acre or less. They do however regularly shut down the highway that passes nearby when missile tests are fired over the area.

  32. If you know the series resistance of the array and multiply that by the square of the average current you will learn how much waste heat is generated. Then there is the direct conversion of solar rays to IR. What is the contribution to global warming compared to other power plants? Maybe they should paint them white :)

  33. Bob Rogers says: “What’s the ROI on a hand grenade or a bullet? Nothing the Army does returns a profit, so why should this?”

    Right. So how do we get North Korea to put one in just like it?

  34. Solar fields = Monuments to the green energy era. Given time, these monuments will take on the patina you will find on monuments to humankind’s folly.

  35. Bob Rogers says: “What’s the ROI on a hand grenade or a bullet? Nothing the Army does returns a profit, so why should this?”
    ———————————————-
    Yes money was wasted in the war against Japan and Germany on bombs and munitions. Losing Hawaii, the west coast, Philipines, Hong Kong, Burma, Australiia, France, Holland, Britain, etc. would have been no cost at all.

  36. More Soylent Green! says:
    January 24, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I am sure Concurrent Technologies Corp. is well aware of the Time of Delivery Factors (TOD) built into the RE contracts that the three big service providers offer for RE projects. They will be leveraging the factors to supply electrical energy to the grid at peak times in the summer at $.24 kWh (PG&E) to $.30 kWh (SCE) and they will be able to charge the batteries at night during off peak rates (there are some special rates for EV folks so the price to charge can be as little as $.05). I don’t know if there are any funds still in the Advanced Energy Storage (ASE) pot, Tesla tapped this fund a year plus ago so they have already figured out how to take advantage of the TOD factors and have worked out how to send the electrons from the batteries to the grid, but I am sure Concurrent will leverage this funding source if it’s available.

    The levelized costs of the solar farm noted above is the costs to the developer. The price that SCE, or whoever is getting the power, will be based on a 20 to 25 year PPA. In order to get the cash flow to work out for the investors the Time of Delivery (TOD) factors have to be taken into account so the AVG price will be around $.13 kWh for generation, before any other costs are allocated (i.e. transmission, line loss, distribution, back up power for when the sun doesn’t shine, etc. etc).

    And yes, I think a few DOE projects could be reduced without effecting national security. I believe this effort would be classified as an investment in green energy by the administration.

  37. What would a President and General Eisenhower have said about this?

    Why is it that nobody can call a dumb thing “dumb” anymore? Some things, like this, are.

  38. Has anyone done a study on how scoring the panels by blowing sand affects efficiency? Or is that one on the questions that one doesn’t ask because one doesn’t want to hear the answer.

  39. What shall we call the heat island that is surely present around this collosal waste of money?

    How about the Collosal Waste of Money Heat Island Effect (CWMHIE). Oh well, I was never much good at inventing acronyms.

  40. The political class is very good at finding new avenues for patronage. During Bush’s regime, it was military contractors and weapons suppliers. During the current regime it is Green companies, slayers of climate change (*eniers) and social media software companies etc.

  41. I’ve spent much time out at WSMR for work with the Army. The base is enormous, some 3200 sq mi. It is also some of the most desolate, god forsaken collection of scrub brush, salt flats, and ancient lava flows one can imagine. Blistering sun, no rain in the valley. Close to nothing. National treasure? Please. The Mojave is a paradise by comparison.

    If there’s any place where it makes sense to throw up some solar PV in the US without concern for otherwise useless land, WSMR is the place.

    BTW, outside infrastructure like gas lines do not cross the base. If a gas turbine electric plant was to be built on large scale, its fuel supply would have to be continuously trucked-in CNG or propane, or in other words a non-starter. Yes solar PV is expensive but it does not require a pipeline. Why do the common “could have built a gas plant” red herrings always just assume the fuel (or water supply for Rankine cycles) is always and everywhere available, that gas lines lie everywhere just below the ground? No, diesel generators are the Army’s practical go to for remote power needs like WSMR. Diesel electric is expensive now and we only be more so in the future.

  42. BTW2, I suspect the electric load out at the WSMR fixed building sites must be overwhelmingly air conditioning, i.e. high day time loads, especially in the desert. Gets rather pleasant out there at night. There is little or no night time lighting over most of the base. So the demand would likely match the solar output very closely. The Army would know this.

  43. Don Allen says:
    January 24, 2013 at 3:59 am

    Gen. Gwen Bingham
    Katherine Hammack
    Judy Marks

    Hmmmmm.

    It’s taken you this long for you to notice the pattern?

    DaveE.

  44. Falstaff says:
    January 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm
    I’ve spent much time out at WSMR for work with the Army. The base is enormous, some 3200 sq mi. It is also some of the most desolate, god forsaken collection of scrub brush, salt flats, and ancient lava flows one can imagine. Blistering sun, no rain in the valley. Close to nothing. National treasure? Please. The Mojave is a paradise by comparison.

    If there’s any place where it makes sense to throw up some solar PV in the US without concern for otherwise useless land, WSMR is the place.

    BTW, outside infrastructure like gas lines do not cross the base. If a gas turbine electric plant was to be built on large scale, its fuel supply would have to be continuously trucked-in CNG or propane, or in other words a non-starter. Yes solar PV is expensive but it does not require a pipeline. Why do the common “could have built a gas plant” red herrings always just assume the fuel (or water supply for Rankine cycles) is always and everywhere available, that gas lines lie everywhere just below the ground? No, diesel generators are the Army’s practical go to for remote power needs like WSMR. Diesel electric is expensive now and we only be more so in the future.

    There’s a CNG fueling station on the post: Compressed Natural Gas Fueling Station White Sands Main Post – White Sands Missile Range, NM

    White Sands Missile Range sits right in the middle of the New Mexico Gas Company’s Las Cruces service area in southeastern Doña Ana County.

  45. The nearest CNG station with a listed price is in Socorro: $1.25/gge. That works out to $0.04/kWh. $4.20 per mcf also works out to $0.04/kWh. Half as much as the Army will be paying Siemens.

  46. This post reminds me of something I read after Bill Clinton’s inaugeration. One of his supporters was offended that the parade included a flyover by some fighters. To a friend nearby they said there shouldn’t be a military display. The friend replied, “Ah! But remember, those are now OUR planes.”

  47. 1. This is 100% funded by the taxpayers.

    2. There is only a positive return on the investment if the price of natural gas rises more than anyone expects it to. In that sense, it is like a lot of calculated risks, a hedge against future gas price increases.

    3. It is best thought of as another large R&D project, such as for example the failed Sergeant York antiaircraft vehicle. It is not possible to be absolutely correct 100% of the time. With its large scale and timeline, perhaps the Army and Siemens will acquire a lot of information useful to the Army in the future.

    4. In this and other R&D projects, the Army, Navy and Air Force are acting as though a diverse set of energy sources for the future is more important than the cheapest energy now. They seem to be betting that consistent R&D will reduce the prices and increase the utility of alternative sources.

  48. If AGW fanatics have their way, the world will be cluttered with giant windmills and littered with soalr arrays. No more open spaces for wildlife and people. No more open vistas. All because of fanatic obsession over CO2, compounded iwth a bizarre reluctance to use effective technology that actually reduces CO2 without wrecking huge areas of the country.

  49. @Matthew R Marler,

    The only R&D going on here is in creative Enron-style accounting: Researching and developing new ways to scam the taxpayers.

    There is nothing R&D, state of the art or cutting edge about this solar installation. The gov’t picked the taxpayers’ pockets for a 27% down payment and then neglected to charge it against the cost of the project. This sort of accounting gets you perp-walked in the private sector.

  50. So 42 acres is 170,000 squ metres, and with a whopping 4 megaWatts output power that is a whole 23 Watts per square metre.

    Not a bad recovery efficiency from say 1,000 W/m^2 @ maybe AM 1.5. yes not bad; simply attrocious !

  51. LCNM is about 32 deg N latitude, so that gives them a latitude obliquity factor of about 85% (0.848)

    So let’s say they have only 35.6 acres normal to the sun.

    Still bloody awful efficiency.

    Well it could be a lot worse of course. If you put up mirrors, and a central boiler turbine system, you simply wouldn’t believe the amount of shadowing inefficiency you have to put up with.

    Compared to that Solyndra was a marvel of optical efficiency.

    I can’t wait to find out what their local property tax bill will be on that 42 acres of building improvements.

    Well it’s all waste desert land isn’t it.

  52. >>>The energy being provided will cost the same that WSMR is currently paying the local utility company which is a blended rate of $0.08/kWh.

    How do they get that? Please, someone correct me if my math is wrong.
    4.5 MW project @ 20% average output = 900 kW average hourly output
    900kW * 24hrs/day * 365 days/yr = 7.8 million kW hrs/year
    Now what does it cost? 16.8 million.
    The power company gets a loan at 6% to pay that off in 20yrs, the life of the project.
    The yearly payment is 1.5 Million per year.
    The cost per kWhr = 19 cents per kWhr.
    Of course, since there will be cloudy days with very little output we have to include the capital costs of the traditional/reliable sources that work on cloudy days. We also have to include maintenance of the panels. Also, include an amount of inefficiency when there are days the sun is coming in and out and the fossil plants are ramping up and down and loosing efficiency.
    In actuality, it is not really 19 cents per kWhr, because much of the cost of the project will not be a loan, but the Federal Gov’t will simply take money out of the US Treasury to pay for the project. It’s a game of sleight of hand and funny numbers!

  53. WSMR does have limited natural gas pipeline access, but only to the main post (opposite Las Cruces), close to that CNG refueling station. The line maximum capacity is 0.645 MCFH. Everything else is propane/water/diesel tank storage and trucked in. The Army is wary of placing any more buried utility lines because, as they say, “Vehicular and other types of off-road maneuvers [i.e. tanks] could cause minor to moderate impacts by potentially damaging buried utility structures”

    WSMR is some ~140 miles long, N to S. Gas in Las Cruces at the southern end does help much elsewhere.

    Trucked in gas with drivers cleared on base will run something *above* $4.20 per mcf / $0.04/kWh, plus the $0.01/kWh for capex/O&M. The Siemens/Bostonia bank price, gouged or not, is the all in price and guaranteed for 25 years. Also gas electric would be running at very low load at night on base, so use something like 50% avg capacity factor in calculating the capex per kWh costs, maybe 30% in the winter.

    Fuel supply at 50% avg load for a 14MW, 33% eff gas electric plant would be ~1.7 Mmcf per day, or ~five 375,000 scf CNG-skids on/off base every day. The convoys would have to get well ahead of demand because the base is not infrequently closed to traffic for missile tests, etc.

    http://www.wsmr.army.mil/PDF/WSMR_EIS_Volume_I.pdf

  54. Bloke down the pub says: “Let’s see how well the panels stand up to the dusty environment.”
    It’s even better than that, because the winds coming over the Organ Mountains just to the West of where this was set up are quite fierce. There have been several times, that I know of, where the wind doesn’t just become a dust storm, but actually picks up gravel and small pebbles. People have had the windshields and windows of their cars broken, and numerous small dents all over the metal bodies of their cars. Then there are the critters that will seek haven beneath the panels, which will include not just the cute rabbits, but also the not-so-cute rattlesnakes. And once the rabbits have shown up, the buzzards will start roosting on the panels, watching for the rabbits, and doing what birds do as they sit anywhere. This could become quite a circus.

  55. Janice says:
    January 24, 2013 at 7:37 pm
    Bloke down the pub says: “Let’s see how well the panels stand up to the dusty environment.”
    It’s even better than that, because the winds coming over the Organ Mountains just to the West of where this was set up are quite fierce. There have been several times, that I know of, where the wind doesn’t just become a dust storm, but actually picks up gravel and small pebbles. People have had the windshields and windows of their cars broken, and numerous small dents all over the metal bodies of their cars. Then there are the critters that will seek haven beneath the panels, which will include not just the cute rabbits, but also the not-so-cute rattlesnakes. And once the rabbits have shown up, the buzzards will start roosting on the panels, watching for the rabbits, and doing what birds do as they sit anywhere. This could become quite a circus.

    ===========================================================================

    People talk about “The Law of Unintended Consequences”. This sounds like “The Law of Don’t Care About the Consequences as Long it Sounds Good”.

  56. There is a significant problem here in the Power density calculation, Solar cannot reach 0.11 MW per acre (~0.25 MW/Hectare) or 25W per square meter on any baseload equivalent basis. I’d assume a sleight of hand has been used and this is the peak generating energy density, given an average of 5 generating hours per day, one must scale this to compare with Gas which operates 24 hours, so this would be 5/24*25 = 5.2 Watts per meter squared (about what I’d expect) or about 0.052 MW per hectare, or something like 0.023 MW Per Acre on a fair comparison with gas.

  57. Even if the solar collectors survive the desert, will the millions of junctions (most between dissimilar materials) hold-up?

  58. Sun Spot’s comment was, simply, “Military Intelligence.” I disagree,strongly. INSCOM (Intelligence/Security Command), also based in New Mexico, would never leave such an obvious — and “soft” — target out in the open. Would that military minds were actually in charge of such projects. Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Leslie Groves was placed in charge of building the Pentagon in 1941 and it was dedicated in January 1943 — ahead of schedule and under budget. Gen. Groves, of course, was also assigned to oversee the Manhattan Project, if you want to talk about ROI.

  59. glenncz says:
    January 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm
    >>>The energy being provided will cost the same that WSMR is currently paying the local utility company which is a blended rate of $0.08/kWh.

    How do they get that? Please, someone correct me if my math is wrong.
    4.5 MW project @ 20% average output = 900 kW average hourly output
    900kW * 24hrs/day * 365 days/yr = 7.8 million kW hrs/year
    Now what does it cost? 16.8 million.
    The power company gets a loan at 6% to pay that off in 20yrs, the life of the project.
    The yearly payment is 1.5 Million per year.
    The cost per kWhr = 19 cents per kWhr.
    Of course, since there will be cloudy days with very little output we have to include the capital costs of the traditional/reliable sources that work on cloudy days. We also have to include maintenance of the panels. Also, include an amount of inefficiency when there are days the sun is coming in and out and the fossil plants are ramping up and down and loosing efficiency.
    In actuality, it is not really 19 cents per kWhr, because much of the cost of the project will not be a loan, but the Federal Gov’t will simply take money out of the US Treasury to pay for the project. It’s a game of sleight of hand and funny numbers!

    Your math is correct. The cost to the taxpayers is far higher. The only way to get $0.08/kWh is to ignore the cost of capital and the taxpayer-funded 27% down payment. The $6.1 million tax credit would cost the taxpayers $10 million over 25 years at a 2% interest rate.

  60. So I took 42 Acres (170,000 sq m and 85% latitude factor), and I covered 3 out of each four square metres with solar cells of 20% conversion efficiency, leaving 1/4 of the space to go around and maintain stuff, and I got a peak output power level of 21.6 MegaWatts.

    So at 4 megaWatts, the army is being gypped by whoever pulled this scam.

  61. @georgeesmith:
    This is a tracking installation. Trackers need a lot more node to node spacing to avoid self shadow. If the owner has a lot of useless land to spare, and the Army does here, why not? They stand to gain more power at off peak hour and off peak season.

    I think the thing check here is the actual area of PV installed, not land.

  62. @Falstaff,

    The current pipeline has an excess capacity of 0.6 mcf/hr. This is sufficient for a 70 kW generator. This would have delivered as much electricity as the 300 kW parking garage array.

    The EIS doesn’t say if the limiting factor on the pipeline is diameter, gas supply or compressor capacity. A 3″ high pressure line could easily the deliver 200 mcf/d needed for 14 MW. The pipeline would run about $14 million. It would probably cost a lot less because the ROW was aleady secured for the existing pipeline. A natural gas plant, capable of generating 100% of WSMR’s electricity, including a new pipeline, would have cost about the same as the solar PV, capable of generating 10%.

  63. David Banks: “That they will tear down in a few years when we get more efficient technology”

    We already have more efficient technology. It is called Gas Turbines.

  64. James Ard says:
    January 24, 2013 at 7:04 am

    When we start exporting natural gas and begin to use it in our truck fleet, the price isn’t going to stay as low as it is now. Not that renewables will ever be able to compete, but predicting stable natural gas prices for ten or fifteen years is a bad guess.

    Some experts are beginning to refer to the US frac gas resources as “effectively infinite“, and also effectively free. Natural gas will economically ‘eat the lunch’ of any currently known competing energy source, for a long time to come.

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