180th Solar Field Shines with Expansion

  • Published
  • By Capt. Gary Bentley
  • 180th Fighter Wing
The 180th Fighter Wing Air National Guard Base at Toledo Express Airport was the site of a press conference on 5 January, announcing further expansion of its highly successful alternative energy solar field.

The Honorable Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur from Ohio's Ninth Congressional District joined Col Mark Bartman, 180th FW Commander and other unit members and guests to celebrate the fourth phase expansion of the already largest solar field in the state of Ohio and largest on any National Guard base in the country.

The expansion is expected to increase the solar power produced to a total of about 1.2 megawatts, or 37 percent of the base's electrical needs, according to Lt Col William Giezie, 180th Civil Engineering Squadron Commander.

Development and construction of the 180th's solar field began in 2006 when Kaptur obtained Department of Defense Research and Development Testing and Engineering funds for the base to develop a renewable energy site. According to Giezie, after extensive evaluation of the available technology combined with the environmental conditions found in Northwest Ohio, it was determined that a cadmium telluride thin film semi-conductor would produce the greatest quantity of electricity with the low and diffuse light conditions present in the Toledo Ohio area.

This factor led to contracts with several Northwest Ohio companies, including Rudolph Libbe Inc., Advanced Distribution Generation, Romanoff Electric and First Solar. More than 95% of the major components, technology and labor used to produce the solar field has been developed, produced and constructed by the citizens of Northwest Ohio, stated Bartman. He added, "the 180th Fighter Wing is a community-based organization and its members are proud of the solar field and of being good stewards of the environment."

In 2008 Kaptur and Bartman pulled a symbolic electrical switch to officially open the solar field as guests and visitors cheered. Since its inception the field has produced a total of 827 megawatt-hours or 21 percent of the base's total electrical requirements. In less than two years, the base has saved about $140,000 in electricity costs, said Bartman. He added that the hope is to fill the remainder of the 10-acre site with more solar panels and to put solar panels on rooftops.

The 180th has plans to convert many of its current vehicles from gasoline to electric in order to take further advantage of its increasing production of solar power. In addition, vehicles that operate on biodiesel fuel are also being purchased. Bartman added that in addition to using alternative forms of energy, the 180th is committed to reducing its overall energy usage. "We have upgraded boiler systems to high efficiency modulating units in 9 of our buildings and have installed high efficiency LED lighting around the base," said Bartman.

Kaptur, a passionate proponent of alternative energy, referred to the 180th's solar field as "a model for our nation."

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