JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Nearly five years of collaboration between the Air Force, civic stakeholders and private industry came to fruition Feb. 2 with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for a 2,600-acre solar enhanced use lease project on land leased out by the Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
It is the largest ground-mounted solar array project constructed on an Air Force installation.
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center, a primary subordinate unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, worked with Edwards AFB to solicit lease proposals for the underutilized parcel of land on the northwest corner of the base using the Air Force EUL program.
“Through the program, Air Force installations can lease non-excess, underused land to private sector developers in return for rent or in-kind consideration subject to approval by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations,” said Jeffrey Domm, Director for AFCEC’s Installations Directorate.
The Air Force and Terra-Gen LLC, a renewable energy company, signed a 35-year EUL agreement in November 2018. Tera-Gen planned and developed the leased land, and constructed the solar energy project. The Air Force can potentially earn up to $75.8 million throughout the lease period, said EUL Asset Manager David Mairs.
The complex undertaking required AFCEC to address more than 120 mitigation requirements throughout the project and collaborate closely with Terra-Gen, Edwards’ 412th Civil Engineer Group, and AFIMSC’s Detachment 6 at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
AFCEC and base officials also worked closely with other stakeholders with vested interests, including Edwards’ 412th Test Wing, federal, state, county and local agencies, and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the Tejon Tribe. Working with the tribes and the California State Historic Preservation Office ensured the protection and preservation of the Native American cultural sites on the land.
“Only in America, can we take barren land, embrace the power of the sun and create an engineering marvel," said Brig. Gen. William Kale, Air Force Civil Engineer Center commander. "So, take the time to reflect, see the great work that was done, and understand the significance of this project and what it can lead to. Hopefully, this is just the spark."
The new 464-megawatt capacity solar array, with an approximate 3,287 megawatt-hours of battery energy storage, is part of a larger $2 billion development called the Edwards Sanborn Solar Storage Project.
In addition to the 2,600 acres of land leased for the Edwards Solar EUL project, the Edwards Sanborn Solar Storage Project includes another 2,000 acres of private land, and according to Air Force and Tera-Gen sources, both areas together will generate enough energy to power more than 164,000 homes and displace more than 320,000 tons of carbon emissions annually.
“The Edwards Sanborn solar project will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and provide renewable, cleaner energy that will ultimately protect the earth for future generations,” said Shari Fort, the Air Force Materiel Command National Environmental Policy Act liaison assigned to AFIMSC’s Detachment 6, who supported compliance with NEPA.
The Edwards array is the fifth and largest solar EUL project in the Air Force. The others at Luke AFB, Arizona; Eglin AFB, Florida; and two at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, complete the existing portfolio, with other energy EULs in development, marking the Air Force’s commitment to the President’s clean energy initiatives.