It’s not the first PV system installed by the Air Force. In fact, until 2008, the largest PV system in the United States was the 14.2 megawatt PV system at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nellis, Nevada.
The Air Force’s newest installation is located at its L.A. base, over its north-side parking lot. By locating it over the parking lot, the array serves the additional purpose of shading cars from intense summer heat—making it easier to plop down on those vinyl seats on a hot day.
The array is oriented at a 5-degree western tilt to help maximize the amount of afternoon sunlight hitting the panels, “which coincides with the peak demand on energy used by the base,” the Air Force said. At 12 feet high, most emergency vehicles can still fit under it. However, it’s not suitable for parking a jet under.
"One of the biggest benefits to the base is that the greatest amount of energy that will be produced by the solar panels [is] at the time when we have the greatest time of demand for energy, typically in the afternoon," explained Ed Wilson, project manager of the 61st Civil Engineer and Logistics Squadron. He added that the PV parking lot will help reduce the base’s peak-energy demand significantly and help the base save taxpayer money.
The Air Force said that part of the reason it chose to do the PV installation is because it will save money on the expense of the panels over time, compared to what it would cost to buy the energy from Southern California Edison, which supplies the base’s power. It added that, unlike private companies, it can focus on the long-term savings benefits of PV power. And that its “bottom line is to spend the available budget the best way possible.”