President Barack Obama held up Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as an example for America to follow toward energy independence during a visit there May 27.
The air base, a huge facility outside Las Vegas best known as the "Home of the Fighter Pilot," also is the site of the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, and the president would like to see more such facilities around the country.
The array has more than 72,000 solar panels built on part of an old landfill. The facility provides about a quarter of the electricity for the 12,000 people who live and work at the base.
"That's the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day," President Obama said. "It's a project that took about half a year to complete, created 200 jobs and will save the U.S. Air Force, which is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, nearly $1 million a year."
The Nellis facility reduces harmful carbon pollution by 24,000 tons a year, the equivalent of removing 4,000 cars from the roads, President Obama noted.
"Most importantly, this base serves as a shining example of what's possible when we harness the power of clean, renewable energy to build a new, firmer foundation for economic growth," he said.
Nellis' system covers 140 acres of land, including 33 acres of capped landfill. The array comprises more than 72,000 solar panels that track the sun to maximize renewable solar energy.
President Obama said he would like to see this technology, and others that harness wind and geothermal energy, duplicated around the United States "because in this case, what happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas."
"We'll invest in the development and deployment of solar technology wherever it can thrive," he said, "and we'll find the best way to integrate solar power into our electric grid."
The Nellis solar power system is a joint venture among the Air Force, Renewable Ventures, SunPower Corp. and N.V. Energy.
by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service