Ohio Air National Guard expands solar energy fieldWritten by Duane Ramsey | | email@example.com
A solar energy installation at the Ohio Air National Guard (OHANG) base on Eber Road is being expanded by 50 percent to produce as much as 35 to 40 percent of the base’s energy needs with nearly all materials and suppliers coming from Northwest Ohio.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur joined officials from the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard and several local companies to commemorate phase four of the solar project on Jan. 5 at the base near Toledo Express Airport.
When completed, the project will generate 1.2 megawatts of energy by increasing the size of the solar field by 50 percent. It will become the largest solar field in Ohio and second largest for the Air Force nationwide, according to OHANG officials.
“Kaptur wanted to make it an energy independent base using photovoltaic research and materials developed in Northwest Ohio,” said Col. Mark Bartman, commander of the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard.
“The National Guard is a community-based force and we’re proud to use local resources,” he said.
Ninety-five percent of everything built and installed in the solar field is provided by sources in Northwest Ohio. The solar installation has saved $140,000 on electric bills at the base during the past year, Bartman said.
“It’s a great green energy project using only Northwest Ohio contractors and suppliers,” said Gary Haas, executive vice president of Rudolph/Libbe Inc., general contractor for the project.
“The public-private partnership for this project has helped to move alternative energy forward in our region,” said Kaptur, who secured federal funding for the project that will be an $11.4 million investment upon completion.
From her position on the defense subcommittee, Kaptur obtained more than $9 million in energy funding for the solar field at the 180th and a smaller field at Camp Perry in Ottawa County.
The solar installation at OHANG began in October 2008 with 800 kilowatts of capacity and will be increased to 1.2 megawatts when phase four is completed. That phase will generate about 37 percent of the energy used by the base.
The solar field generated 40 percent of the base’s electricity in August with only the first three phases in operation. The new panels provide better megawatt production hours of electricity with the increased density of the solar panels, according to Lt. Col. Bill Giezie, the base’s civil engineer.
The solar panels produced by First Solar of Perrysburg for this project are designed to perform better in lower light levels and even with snow on them, said Todd Spangler, plant manager of the firm’s local production facility.
Spangler reported the company is wrapping up current expansion of those facilities that will include a total of nearly 1 million square feet and about 1,000 employees upon completion.
Rudolph|Libbe of Walbridge has about 30 people working on phase four with a total of 120 employees who have worked on the total project. Romanoff Electric Company of Toledo is serving as the electrical contractor for the project.
A new company in the region, Nextronex, is producing the solar inverter units for use in the installation at the OHANG base. The inverters being used at the base’s installation were produced in Germany and are not as efficient as the new units will be, said Norm Rapino, CEO of Nextronex based at Metcalf Field in Milbury.
The local project will be the first to use the innovative inverter system designed and produced by Nextronex. The 1,000-volt utility-scale system converts the D.C. energy absorbed by the solar panels and converts it to A.C. power for electricity.
A system for tracking energy production will allow real-time data to be reported instantly and allow the system to be monitored for maintenance, according to Nextronex officials.
“This is an exceptional day for our region as we celebrate this solar installation,” said Kaptur. “With the research being conducted here, every phase becomes more efficient and will be important for the future of our region. This project is homegrown right here and is a fine example of how we sustain our environment.”
Kaptur said that solar projects such as the one at the Ohio Air National Guard base are drawing interest in the Northwest Ohio region from alternative energy companies in other areas.
The Air National Guard plans to purchase electric vehicles for use on the base that will be recharged directly from the solar installation. The base is also developing methods for storing and controlling the use of renewable energy there, said Giezie.
The solar field and entire base are protected by the latest security measures available, including personal, physical and mechanical factors, Bartman said.
The Ohio Air National Guard base has 430 full-time military and federal civilian employees. That number increases to 1,100 persons one weekend each month when the guard conducts its regular training exercises.
The 180th Fighter Wing has been ranked as an excellent unit in the Air Force ranking system and is slated to receive the Jint Strike Fighter, the successor aircraft to the current F-16’s that are being flown, according to Kaptur’s office.