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Innovative solar panel project first in South Carolina

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- The 20th Fighter Wing celebrated the completion of the Shaw Military Housing’s solar power installation project with a ribbon cutting ceremony, Oct. 22, at Shaw Air Force Base.

The project included the installation of 5,865 solar panels on 284 homes, accumulating an approximate 40 percent offset of total annual electrical consumption. It is a first for military housing in the state of South Carolina. The project solidifies the state as eighth in the nation for installed solar power capacity.

A statement by Hunt Southern Group, owner and operators of Shaw Military Housing, said this project equates to the generation of approximately 2.4 million kilowatt hours of energy per year. In comparison, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the average U.S. household uses 11,000 kWh of energy each year.

The solar panel project allows for 100 percent of the revenue, after the lease of the solar power panels, to go back into a modernization project for base houses after 25 years, said Lt. Col. Brian Strickland, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

Strickland said the project set a unique precedent for renewable energy in military housing units in South Carolina and created a roadmap for other military branches and installations.

Shaw AFB’s project was made possible through a collaborative partnership by Duke Energy, the 20th FW and Hunt Southern Group. Duke Energy, an electric power holding company which services Shaw AFB, effectively utilized a 2014 South Carolina General Assembly renewable energy legislation - commonly known as Act 236 - designed to stimulate the installation of 200 Megawatts of renewable energy capacity in the state by 2020. According to Hunt Southern Group, the law’s framework established a system that encouraged customer installation of solar power technology through strategic programs like net metering incentives and rebate offerings.

Net metering is a system in which solar panels are connected to a public-utility power grid allowing customers to offset the cost of power drawn from surplus energy.

“The exceptional part of this is what it has done for our families,” said John Hoyt, Hunt Military Communities vice president. “They aren’t going to see or feel this but the reality is that 100 percent of the electricity saved from these panels will go directly to the project which will go directly to sustainability. It doesn’t go into (someone’s) pocket but it goes into the long term sustainment of the houses. That means that our military families will get equitable, marketable, safe and affordable housing for the future and there is really no greater value for us than that.”

In 2017, the Air Force created the Air Force Energy Flight Plan, committing resources to improving how it manages energy by advancing new methods and encouraging its leaders to develop new innovate projects.

“This plan, along with our recent policies, codifies the importance energy resiliency has to the Air Force mission and identifies how we are going to move forward,” said Miranda Ballentine, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations environment and energy, during the implementation of the 2017 AFEFP. “We need to take a holistic approach to energy projects to provide resilient, cost-effective, cleaner energy solutions to ensure we can continue to operate when our energy supplies are interrupted.”

The AFEFP is a comprehensive document that provides a framework to facilitate an Air Force wide approach to energy conservation and resiliency. The completion of Shaw AFB’s project conforms with this approach and its vision to improve resiliency, optimize demand and assure supply.

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