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Nellis to save $1 million annually with use of solar panels

On 140 acres of unused land, 70,000 solar panels await activation as the first third of the solar photovoltaic array gets commissioned Oct. 12 with the other 66 percent of the panels scheduled for activation in the next two months at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Base officials and SunPower Corp. finalized a commission of 15 megawatts in solar power that can save Nellis AFB $1 million annually. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay)

On 140 acres of unused land, 70,000 solar panels await activation as the first third of the solar photovoltaic array gets commissioned Oct. 12 with the other 66 percent of the panels scheduled for activation in the next two months at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Base officials and SunPower Corp. finalized a commission of 15 megawatts in solar power that can save Nellis AFB $1 million annually. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFPN) -- Officials from Nellis Air Force Base and SunPower Corp. are scheduled to finalize the commission of 15 megawatts in solar power to the base this month, making up North America's largest solar photovoltaic power system.

When complete, the solar power will save the base $1 million annually.

The switch to solar power should be transparent to the Nellis AFB community, SunPower officials said.

"The people here should not see any difference, but they will have the satisfaction of knowing they are using renewable energy," said Rich Hanson, a senior project manager from SunPower Corp.

The reduced energy costs will be the biggest change on base resulting from the array's commissioning.

"The true effect will be felt in (the) electric bill when (Nellis AFB) receives part of the power at our new, less expensive rate," said Michelle Price, the base energy manager with the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron.

Power produced by the solar array will cut the base's energy costs, saving Nellis AFB roughly $83,000 on its monthly electric bill once the entire system is commissioned.

The solar power system has been under construction since June 2007. The solar farm will cover 140 acres of Nellis AFB land and will consist of approximately 70,000 solar panels when completed.

The units of solar panels are called "trackers" because they track the sun throughout the day. By tracking the movement of the sun, the panels can gather roughly 30 percent more power than fixed systems.

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