Camp Roberts Nanosolar Photovoltaic Project

[San Miguel, California USA]

In Search of the Camp Roberts 1 MW (MegaWatt) Solar Project.
On-site tour with BELECTRIC Inc.

Anyone reading The Nanosolar Efficiency and Cost Roadmap post might have predicted my intention to survey the 1 MWp (MegaWatt-peak) solar project planned for the California Army National Guard’s Camp Roberts in San Miguel, California. With rare patience, I waited through the variable though mild winter until early March when I imagined the project might be nearing completion and fearing an imminent announcement.

From the map included in the Nanosolar: Low Cost Solar Power on DoD Installations presentation at the US Department of Defense DoD Environmental Technology Technical Symposium, November 30, 2011, I knew the project was located just east of U.S. Route 101 near the Camp Roberts main gate.


View Camp Roberts Solar Project in a larger map

After driving down 101 South from the Bay Area, my fears were proven unfounded since the photovoltaic (PV) project was maybe twenty (20) percent complete. Conducting my survey and taking photos as shown in the Picasa slideshow, I was unable the view the back of the Nanosolar Utility Panels and the crucial module rating label. I tried to get closer from the north side of the project but could proceed no further than the WARNING sign proclaiming:

Right of Search and Seizure

This is A Federal Military Installation

Entry hereon by any person constitutes consent to search of person and property and to seizure of contraband as defined by Federal and State Law

I later heard the base military police are both vigilant and swift to respond to the entry of anyone on the grounds. At least there were no signs forbidding photography from outside the project fences.

Without the key module information, I did not have much to post about the project besides the photos. Leveraging an introductory meeting at Solar Power International 2011, I contacted BELECTRIC USA to see what else I could find out. BELECTRIC was kind enough to offer me a site tour which was deferred by mutual agreement until the solar project was near completion.

On-site Tour
About six weeks later in April, I got to tour the Camp Roberts solar project with BELECTRIC. It was very strange for me to be inside the fence for a change. All the Nanosolar Utility Panels had been installed on the ground mount racking structures utilizing the signature BELECTRIC wooden crossbeams. The inverter pad was wired and ready for the installation of the central inverter being delivered the following week. BELECTRIC would have completed the project sooner but instead used the installation to train more BELECTRIC associates.

The Camp Roberts solar project does use the 200 Watt CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide) Nanosolar Utility Panels with a module efficiency of 9.99% and wide +/- 10% rated power tolerance. From the serial numbers, the Utility Panels appear to have been assembled last year in Luckenwalde, Germany, I’d guess in 4Q11 (fourth quarter of 2011). While this was what Nanosolar planned per the DoD presentation, I was wondering if these might be upgraded to 11.5% efficient modules.

From 1 MWp Camp Roberts Solar Project

Project Details
I understand the Camp Roberts solar project is sized just under 1 MWp or a few less than 5000 of the 200 Wp (Watt-peak) Nanosolar Utility Panels. As covered before, here are a few more key project metrics:

Generation: 1750 MWh/year
Production: 1750 kWh/kWp
Installed Cost: ~$3.00/Wp
LCOE: $0.17/kWh without tax credits or incentives and basic financing
LCOE: $0.14-0.15/kWh with all tax credits and incentives available in the US

Therefore, the total installed project cost is about $3 Million.

The Camp Roberts Nanosolar project:

Grid-Parity Solar Power for Department of Defense Installations
Project ID: EW-201134

was funded by the DoD’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) under the Energy and Water program area supporting “the demonstration of innovative technologies to reduce DoD’s installation energy consumption and carbon footprint, improve energy security, and facilitate water conservation.

Other Active Projects of strict PV note in the same ESTCP Energy and Water program area include Morgan Solar, Cogenra Solar, and Skyline Solar respectively:

100kW Scalable Sun Simba HCPV Demonstration on DoD Lands
Project ID: EW-201249

Solar Cogeneration of Electricity and Hot Water at DoD Installations
Project ID: EW-201248

Demonstration of High Gain Solar (HGS) Technology for Renewable, Distributed Energy Generation
Project ID: EW-201143

Solar, Net Zero, and the US Military
Earlier this year, the “Solar Energy Development on Department of Defense Installations in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts” study by the DoD’s Office of Installations and Environment found 7 GigaWatts of solar energy generation potential on four military bases in the California desert alone.

The DoD is embracing solar and other distributed generation energy technologies on military bases to both reduce energy costs and lessen dependence on the electric grid. By coupling on-site generation with energy storage and smart microgrid technologies, military bases would gain the capability of maintaining “critical operations “off-grid” for weeks or months if the grid is disrupted.”

Texas Army Bases Go Green, but Challenges Remain” by Kate Galbraith for The Texas Tribune highlights efforts by Fort Bliss and Fort Hood to adopt solar and renewable energy and sustainability programs the military calls “Net Zero”. Per a U.S. Army Request for Information (RFI):

Fort Bliss has been designated by the Army as a Pilot Integrated Installation to achieve Net Zero Energy by 2015 to be followed by Net Zero Water and Waste by 2018. This program is the tip of the spear for the Army push to become energy, water, and waste efficient and secure across its infrastructure.

Self-sufficiency and conservation are patriotic, practical, and prudent.

One comment

  1. Cliff Pelchat says:

    Does anyone know what percentage of annual power consumption this solar panel installation will replace for Camp Roberts? I’m interested in knowing what the ROI is?

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