Big Military Solar Project Expands To New Bases

Jul 17, 2012 -Todd Woody -

Credit: Lend Lease

SolarCity has embarked on the second phase of Project SolarStrong, a billion dollar initiative to install solar panels on 120,000 units of privately managed U.S. military housing.

The Silicon Valley startup will put 18,000 photovoltaic panels on 850 residences at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in California and the Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases in Colorado Springs, Colo. The housing is managed by Lend Lease, the Australian property and infrastructure giant, and the solar project is being financed by Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp.

“The United States military is aggressively pursuing reductions in its fossil fuel energy use - SolarStrong gives privatized military housing communities an affordable way to use solar electricity,” Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s chief executive said in a statement.

A $344 million federal loan guarantee that originally was to underwrite SolarStrong fell through shortly after SolarCity announced the project in September 2011.

But two months later, the company and Bank of America said SolarStrong would move forward without a loan guarantee, thanks to the bank’s positive experience in financing another large solar project with a mix of debt and equity. Such projects still qualify for a 30% incentive tax credit through the end of 2016 and a 75% plunge in prices for photovoltaic modules over the past three years has made them increasingly attractive.

SolarStrong has been downsized from the original plans to generate 371 megawatts from 160,000 photovoltaic installations on military bases in 33 states. But it still stands as the largest single rooftop solar project in the U.S.

When the California and Colorado projects are completed by early next year they will produce about 4.2 megawatts, generating between 30% and 60% of the electricity consumed by the residences, according to SolarCity.

SolarCity, which has filed for an initial public offering, previously installed solar arrays on Lend Lease-managed housing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu and the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz.