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Stepping toward energy resilience

A construction crew works on the new solar array being installed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan. 9, 2018.

A construction crew works on the new solar array being installed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan. 9, 2018. The new system is being installed through an Energy Savings Performance Contract that costs the government no upfront money. During the 23-year arrangement, Energy Solutions Group will operate and maintain the system. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Bobby Southerland, right, and Jon Wall install electrical wiring clips onto the new solar array being installed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan. 9, 2018.

Bobby Southerland, right, and Jon Wall install electrical wiring clips onto the new solar array being installed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan. 9, 2018. The new array will increase the amount of renewable solar energy on base and provide an additional asset that will be incorporated into future micro grid planning. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Posts are driven into the ground by a crew installing a new solar array at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018.

Posts are driven into the ground by a crew installing a new solar array at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018. The new system will generate 17 times more power than the base's first array installed in 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Crews work on installing the rack system for a new solar array at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 12, 2018.

Crews work on installing the rack system for a new solar array at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 12, 2018. The fixed 25-degree angle of the system will provide maximum production to the base during peak electrical consumption periods. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

An electrician crew assembles a conduit line for the new solar array being installed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018.

An electrician crew assembles a conduit line for the new solar array being installed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018. The new array will increase the amount of renewable solar energy on base and provide an additional asset that will be incorporated into future micro grid planning. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- What do you do when the power goes out for an extended period of time?

The construction of a new ground-mounted solar array is part of the answer at Hill AFB, as the base works to improve the resilience of the power supplies to itself and reduce its reliance on energy sources outside the fence line.

The goal the Air Force has for its installations is to sustain the ‘critical missions’ for a 30-day grid outage, said Base Energy Manager Nickolas King, 75th Civil Engineer Squadron.

While Hill AFB’s new array by itself won’t reach that goal, when integrated with future micro grid planning and other ongoing energy initiatives, it is a step toward it, King said.

The south-facing, fixed 25-degree tilt system is being installed by Indiana-based Energy Solutions Group. The 3.55 MW solar array will produce 17 times more energy than the existing array on the west side of the installation.

Pat Roemer, Energy Systems Group program manager, said fixed systems require less maintenance and are less expensive to install than other types of arrays. He said systems that track the sun provide only marginal gains in efficiency.

Power generated by the new array will be used as it is produced. In addition, it will provide Hill AFB with increased energy production, King said, which will be particularly useful during peak electrical consumption periods in the summer months.

The array is being installed through an Energy Savings Performance Contract, which means there is no upfront costs to the government. The contractor finances the project, in this case for a 23-year term, and is compensated through the proven savings and guaranteed performance of the project.

The Energy Systems Group will have personnel on site to maintain and operate the system for the term of that agreement. The array is expected to be installed and online by early spring.