Nellis AFB
Las Vegas, Nevada
Solar Power Array
Nellis Activates Nation's Largest PV Array
36° 15' 30" N, 115° 3' 10" W

The solar field, comprised of more than 72,000 panels, was completed after 26 weeks of construction and three years of planning. The array is expected to produce more than 25 percent of Nellis' electricity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Valenca) (Click image for full size)

Nellis activates Nations largest PV Array

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Whitney
Nellis AFB Public Affairs

12/18/2007 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The U.S. Air Force celebrated the completion of North America's largest solar photovoltaic system with a ceremony at Nellis AFB, Dec. 17.

The PV array, completed earlier this month, will supply Nellis with more than 30 million kilowatt-hours of clean, environmentally friendly electricity a year. The array is expected to supply the base with more than 25 percent of the total power used by the base population, roughly 12,000 people.

"Nellis, the 'Home of the Fighter Pilot,' is now home to the largest solar electric plant in all of North America," said Col. Michael Bartley, 99th Air Base Wing commander. "Our base and indeed our entire nation will benefit from the predictable, secure supply of clean energy that this landmark power plant is now generating."

The solar array, which has been in planning for three years and under construction since April 2007, is a public-private partnership between the Air Force, Sunpower Corporation, Nevada Power Company and MMA Renewable Ventures, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage and Equity.

"This solar project at Nellis is a first step of many toward making renewable electricity integral to the operations of the U.S. Air Force," said Mr. William Anderson, assistant secretary, United States Air Force Installations, Environment and Logistics. "As the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, the Air Force is well-positioned to promote both solar technology and new approaches to its implementation. This pioneering initiative is a good example of how a creative approach to public-private partnership can make our energy supply more sustainable, more secure and more affordable."

More than 72,000 solar panels, which contain nearly 6 million solar cells, were constructed by Sunpower Corp. on 140 acres of Nellis land. Many of the panels, which track the sun across the sky, were constructed on top of a capped landfill.

"The land that the array was built on has limited uses because it is a capped landfill and we are restricted on what we can use it for," said Colonel Bartley. "With this array, we are able to maximize the land in a cost-effective manner, land that could potentially remain vacant for years to come."

The plant is estimated to save the Air Force $1 million annually and should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 24,000 tons annually, which is equivalent to removing 185,000 cars from the roadways. This is one of the largest of the Air Force's "green" initiatives to date, with many more projects being planned, said Secretary Anderson.

Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons noted that clean energy projects like this have the potential to reduce United States dependence on foreign and nonrenewable energy sources.

"Nellis is now generating 14 megawatts of clean, renewable energy--energy that meets the demands and the needs of Nellis AFB," Governor Gibbons continued. "More importantly, its meeting the future. It's demonstrating that we can use the abundant renewable resource of solar energy in the United States." 


Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Scottie McCord

Col. Michael Bartley, 99th Air Base Wing commander, Nellis AFB, along with Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons flip the switch to the North America's largest solar photovoltaic power plant located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 17, 2007. The Solar Power System is a $100 million project, covering a total of 140 acres and providing over 14.2 megawatts of electricity. The Nellis Solar Power System will meet an average of 25 percent of Nellis' electricity requirements saving over $1 million dollars annually.

Nellis AFB Solar Array
On 140 acres of unused Nellis 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. The solar panels are part of a solar photovoltaic array that will generate 15 megawatts of solar power for the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay)

Solar panels connect to base electric grid

by 2nd Lt. Jennifer Richard
Nellis AFB Public Affairs

10/10/2007 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- North America's largest solar photovoltaic power system is being activated here Oct. 12, as Nellis and SunPower Corporation commission the first five megawatts of solar-produced power.

SunPower contractors have worked the past two weeks to interconnect the first third of the photovoltaic array which will ultimately provide 15 megawatts of power and save the base $1 million annually upon completion.

There is more to commissioning the array than simply connecting the power cables. Before activating the first five megawatts, SunPower personnel tested, analyzed, and fine-tuned the system to fully optimize its performance.

The switch to solar power will affect every member of the Nellis community, but the change should be transparent.

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

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

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

Power produced by the solar array will cut the base's energy costs, saving Nellis roughly $83,000 on its monthly electric bill when 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 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.

In November, the next five megawatts will be connected to the base electric grid.

The remainder of the 15 megawatts will be commissioned in December, completing the project which will provide the base with renewable energy for years to come. 


..Solar Power Plant Takes Shape at Nellis
The largest photovoltaic solar power plant in the United States is becoming a reality at Nellis Air Force Base. When completed in December, the solar arrays will produce 15 megawatts of power. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Larry E. Reid Jr.

You are my sunshine

by 2nd Lt. Jennifer Richard
Nellis AFB Public Affairs

8/31/2007 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- How many times have you driven down Range Road and wondered "What is the story behind those solar panels and how exactly will they work?"

The new solar energy system, which hundreds of Nellis base employees drive by every day, represents the cutting edge of solar power technology. There is a lot one can learn about the system's various parts and how they will work to transform sunlight into electricity.

"This is new technology," says Michelle Price, Base Energy manager. "These types of panels have not been used in the U.S. before."

Most people think in terms of solar panels, but it is really the solar cell that transforms the sunlight into energy. Each cell is approximately 25 square inches of crystal silicon. Metal conductors in the back of the cell transform energy from the sun directly into electricity. You may also hear these cells referred to as photovoltaic cells ("photo"=light and "voltaic"=electric).

Seventy-two solar cells make up one solar panel.

A solar panel is simply a collection of solar cells. "Solar panel" can be used as a generic term to mean anything that collects the sun's energy. When people speak of the solar panels being installed here, they are probably really thinking of the units called trackers.

Twelve solar panels make up the most common tracker here, the SunPower GPT-20. Trackers are the free-standing units that you see popping up alongside Range Road. They get their name from their ability to slowly turn throughout the day, tracking the movement of the sun. Their nicknames are "the tripods," since they are the trackers with three concrete feet. The "20" in their name refers to the 20-degree tilt of the solar panels. The SunPower GPT-20 trackers will be used on 75 to 85 percent of the solar power farm's acreage.

Another type of tracker being installed has solar cells on both the front and back of the panels. These are the Sanyo GPT-20 trackers with bifacial panels. The Sanyo GPT-20 trackers are being chosen for particular locations where they will be able to collect additional sunlight. Ten to 15percent of the farm's land will use GPT-20 trackers.

The SunPower GPT-0 is the third and final type of tracker on the new solar power farm. As opposed to the SunPower GPT-20s, the GPT-0 trackers are installed into concrete in the ground. The "0" in their name means that they lay flat with a zero-degree tilt. The SunPower GPT-0 will be used on the final 10 to 15 percent of the solar power farm's acreage.

Rows of 40 trackers will be connected by steel bars, and motors at the end of each row will turn the whole group as they track the sun. Each row will also be connected by power cords that are on the back of each tracker. The power cords will run underground alongside Range Road before connecting directly to the base electric grid.

The entire solar panel farm is sometimes referred to as a photovoltaic array.

"It just means a series of panels in a field -- basically a farm," says Mrs. Price.

The array, when completed, will consist of approximately 5,000 trackers, producing roughly 15 megawatts of power. The first five megawatts are scheduled to be connected to the electric grid in October. The next five megawatts will be connected in November with the remainder being connected in December.

Nellis' system will be the largest photovoltaic array in North America and will provide the base with renewable energy at a discounted rate. It will be a secure power source and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The solar power farm will ultimately supply the base with twenty to thirty percent of its total energy needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Won't the solar panels reflect light into the eyes of pilots flying overhead?

No. Most solar panels would reflect light, but the units being installed here will use special solar cells that have a black appearance. Specially chosen to complement the missions here at Nellis, these solar panels will not reflect light into pilots' eyes. In fact, they will be less reflective than lakes or other bodies of water that pilots routinely see in flight.

2. Will the solar panels get dusty? Won't this hurt their efficiency?

Yes. That is why contractors will wash them down occasionally. There will be water trucks going through and cleaning the dust off periodically. Clean solar panels will operate more efficiently.

3. Why are three different types of trackers being used?

There are a variety of trackers being installed because of the different terrain and soil types in the area. Some of the land is a capped landfill, which would have been too expensive to dig up. That is why the two types of GPT-20 trackers, with the tripods sitting on top of the land, are being installed there. In other locations, the GPT-0 trackers are suitable for being installed in the ground.

4. What will happen if the photovoltaic array goes down?

Nothing noticeable would happen. The array will be simply interconnected to the already-existing electric grid on base. Whatever electricity the array can't provide will be supplied by Nevada Power, and no one would ever know the difference. If, however, the entire grid goes down, the photovoltaic array will be shut down for safety reasons.

5. Will there be some sort of battery to save the solar power so we can use it when the sun is not shining?

No. Since the solar power farm will only produce 20 to 30 percent of the base's total energy needs, there will be none left over to store. Experts say this is for the best, since a battery for the array would have to be the size of a large building. There would be a number of safety concerns with that large of an electric battery.


Largest Solar Array in North America: Nellis AFB
Credit: USAF/Nellis AFB

ENN: Environmental News Network
From: Paul Schaefer, ENN
Published December 17, 2007 02:30 PM

Las Vegas, NV - Today the U.S. Air Force announced the completion of North America's largest solar photovoltaic system at Nellis Air Force Base, a massive PV solar array covering thousands of acres in the Nevada desert.

Covering 140 acres of land at the western edge of the Nellis base, the photovoltaic system comprises 72,000 solar panels using the SunPower Tracker technology. The energy generated will support over 12,000 military and civilians at Nellis who are responsible for Air Force advanced combat training, tactics development and operational testing.

"We are faced with an incredible opportunity to promote U.S. energy security by developing our own abundant domestic resources," said United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "Nevada and the United States have the technology and natural resources to serve our growing power demand with clean, renewable energy. I congratulate the Air Force for its continued leadership on clean power."

"Nellis, the 'Home of the Fighter Pilot,' is now home to the largest solar electric power plant in all of North America," said Colonel Michael Bartley, Nellis Air Force Base commander. "Our base and indeed our entire nation will benefit from the predictable, secure supply of clean energy that this landmark power plant is now generating. The project also provides a future test bed for the Department of Defense to assess the benefits of similar arrangements on installations across the United States."

"The Nellis project is a powerful demonstration of the U.S. Air Force's ability to execute on its aggressive goals for clean energy. From early concept through today's dedication, the Air Force collaborated closely with the strong coalition of partners instrumental in making this grand vision for solar a reality, and we look forward to maintaining that solid relationship over the long life of this clean energy system," said Matt Cheney, CEO of MMA Renewable Ventures. "The Nellis project further demonstrates how public-private partnership coupled with an innovative approach to third-party finance can make solar an affordable solution at even the largest scale."

A joint project of the U.S. Air Force, MMA Renewable Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity, LLC (NYSE:MMA), SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR), and Nevada Power Company, the 14 megawatt Nellis solar energy system will generate more than 30 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity annually and supply approximately 25 percent of the total power used at the base, where 12,000 people live and work.

Combining technology and systems expertise from SunPower Corporation and financing by MMA Renewable Ventures with discounted purchase commitments by the U.S. Air Force, the innovative Nellis solar energy system demonstrates that the U.S. government's goals for enhancing security through energy independence can be met both economically and practically when the public and private sectors work together.

SunPower Corporation designed and built the photovoltaic power plant using its proprietary single-axis SunPower(R) T20 Tracker solar tracking system which follows the sun throughout the day and delivers up to 30 percent more energy than traditional fixed-tilt ground systems.

Equally innovative is the funding and ownership of the landmark solar energy system: MMA Renewable Ventures, LLC has financed and will operate the solar power plant, selling electricity to Nellis Air Force Base at a guaranteed fixed rate for the next 20 years. Nevada Power will support the project by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) generated by the solar array. MMA Renewable Ventures closed a fund for the system earlier this year with financing commitments from Citi, Allstate, and John Hancock Financial Services, with Merrill Lynch providing construction financing.

Dignitaries such as Air Force Assistant Secretary William Anderson and Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons will flip a switch marking full operation of the system at a ceremony to be held today at the Nellis base. A team including MMA Renewable Ventures, SunPower Corporation, and Nevada Power Company will join public officials in recognizing the United States Air Force for its commitment to national security, energy independence and environmental sustainability.

"This solar project at Nellis is a first step of many toward making renewable electricity integral to the operations of the U.S. Air Force," said Assistant Secretary Anderson. "As the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, the Air Force is well-positioned to promote both solar technology and new approaches to its implementation. This pioneering initiative is a good example of how a creative approach to public-private partnership can make our energy supply more sustainable, more secure and more affordable."

"The best way to secure a healthy and prosperous economy is to develop our affordable, reliable local resources," said Governor Gibbons. "With these 14 megawatts, Nellis Air Force Base is leading the country in solar energy deployment, a move that is good for the environment and our nation's energy security alike."

"We congratulate the Air Force for having the vision to make solar power a mainstream energy source, and for hosting the largest solar photovoltaic system in the nation," said Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower. "Solar power is the fastest growing energy resource to help meet our escalating power demand, generating reliable, affordable power without creating emissions or waste. Nellis' decision to maximize the size and efficiency of its solar system underscores its commitment to secure energy and environmental preservation. We are proud that SunPower was selected by the Air Force to design, supply, and build this hallmark project."

"Working with partners, such as Nellis Air Force Base, to develop and generate solar energy projects is part of our strategy of providing clean, safe, reliable electricity to our customers at reasonable and predictable prices," said Michael Yackira, chief executive officer of Sierra Pacific Resources, parent company of Nevada Power. "Now that the Nellis solar energy system is on-line, the state of Nevada will be number one in the United States in solar generation per capita. We plan to expand our investments in renewable energy in order to increase the leadership position our company already has in renewable energy nationwide."

About Nellis Air Force Base

Nellis Air Force Base is called the "Home of the Fighter Pilot," and for good reason as Nellis is home of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. With five wings and more than 150 aircraft, the Warfare Center is responsible for advanced combat training, tactics development and operational testing. The Center also conducts worldwide combat operations with the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. More information about Nellis is on the Web at

About MMA Renewable Ventures

A subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity, LLC "MuniMae," (NYSE:MMA) , MMA Renewable Ventures finances, owns and operates renewable energy and energy efficiency assets in the United States. The Company provides leases, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and other customized financial solutions to help its customers manage energy costs. MMA Renewable Ventures is dedicated to delivering competitively priced, clean energy and energy savings to customers, strong partnership options for project developers, and exceptional opportunities for institutional investment in the clean energy sector. For more information about MMA Renewable Ventures, visit

About SunPower

SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) designs, manufactures and delivers high-performance solar electric systems worldwide for residential, commercial and utility-scale power plant customers. SunPower high-efficiency solar cells and solar panels generate up to 50 percent more power than conventional solar technologies and have a uniquely attractive, all-black appearance. With headquarters in San Jose, Calif., SunPower has offices in North America, Europe and Asia. For more information, visit SunPower is a majority-owned subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE:CY) .

About Nevada Power CompanyNevada Power Company is a regulated public utility engaged in the distribution, transmission, generation, purchase and sale of electric energy in the southern Nevada communities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Searchlight, Laughlin and their adjoining areas. The Company also provides electricity to Nellis Air Force Base, the Department of Energy at Mercury and Jackass Flats at the Nevada Test Site. Nevada Power Company provides electricity to approximately 815,000 residential and business customers in a 4,500 square mile service area.Headquartered in Nevada, Sierra Pacific Resources (NYSE:SRP) is a holding company whose principal subsidiaries are Nevada Power Company, the electric utility for most of southern Nevada, and Sierra Pacific Power Company, the electric utility for most of northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area of California. Sierra Pacific Power Company also distributes natural gas in the Reno-Sparks area of northern Nevada.

Copyright 2007 Environmental News Network

Nellis AFB Solar Power System
Credit: U.S. Air Force

SOURCE: Nellis AFB News - Nellis Solar Power System

Contracting Office Address:
Department of the Air Force, Air Combat Command, 99 CONS, 5865 Swaab Blvd, Nellis AFB, NV, 89191-7063

Place of Performance:
Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, 89191

Point of Contact(s):
David Robledo, Contracting Officer, Phone 702-652-2099, Fax 702-652-9570, Email - Courtney Phipps, Contract Specialist, Phone 702-652-4384, Fax 702-652-5405, Email 



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Nellis Air Force Base
Credit: U.S. Air Force

Surface Area: 969,516 ft2
Number of Modules: 72,416
Power Capacity: 14.02 MWp 

Since System Installation — November 2007

Since System Installation — November 2007

Since System Installation — November 2007

Sunpower Performance Monitoring Site

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