Story by Mikayla Gentine
FORT RILEY — The Department of Defense, along with companies Corvias and Onyx, have completed the first phase of Fort Riley’s Solar Program in an effort to reduce the army installation’s dependency on conventional energy.
This is the largest solar program in the state of Kansas, with 177 of the 1,260 home solar panels already installed, according to Fort Riley officials Wednesday morning. In its first year of full operation, these solar panels will produce 14,000 megawatts to replace conventional energy production. This is equivalent to 2,736 cars taken off the road annually, and 14,510 acres of forest planted. The project is seven years ahead of schedule. Col. John Lawrence, Fort Riley garrison commander, said the project doesn’t cost the Department of Defense a penny — in fact, money saved from solar energy will be redistributed into programs that improve the quality of life for Fort Riley residents.
“As we reduce costs and save power, we can divert that money somewhere else, to provide family programs and things of that nature,” Lawrence told media Wednesday.
Approximately 37 percent of annual electricity consumption on Fort Riley will come from these solar panels, which will eliminate 92,000 tons of carbon emissions each year.
Not only is the impact on the environment noteworthy, but the benefits to Fort Riley and its residents are tremendous, according to Corvias Strategic Advisor Beth Worthley.
“The benefit of the solar project is that we’re offering the Fort Riley housing project, as a whole, energy, stability and security,” Worthley said. “Over the 25 year life of this project we have rate predictability with the cost of electricity. So, as utility rates fluctuate with electricity, we will achieve savings here in the solar project because it’s a fixed rate.”
The rest of Fort Riley’s solar panels should be installed on homes by October of this year.