Let it Shine

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POSTED: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 - 9:17pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 2:17pm

Fort Bliss will be the first military installation in the country to go off the grid. That's the order from the White House. But eliminating $19 million in electric bills may be easier said than done.

"Well it's more than just a solar craze, it's renewable energy," said Commanding General Dana Pittard.

And it's an order.

"That's for a couple of reasons," Pittard said. "One is securing our systems but its just the right thing to do."

Fort Bliss has been told to get off the grid. They plan to use only renewable energy, like solar and wind - something Pittard knows is possible.

"It is, it's the sun city!" he said.

A few projects are already underway. Solar panels are the only energy source for a dining hall that's going to open next month. Southwestern plants don't need much water, and the drip system monitors the amount used. Panels also warm water for the pool to take the pressure off the boilers.

Energy branch chief Robert Lopez says they've also got a project going in Dona Ana County to see if it's a suitable place for wind turbines.

"It's different gauges and sensors that gather wind speeds through the day," Lopez said.

But isn't all this expensive? Lopez says just one solar panel pays for itself.

"That gives us an annual savings of approximately $36,000 a year."

"It's a couple of things, investment for the future, but its jobs for the future," Pittard said. He says it's going to help Ft. Bliss' electric bill, and may also transform the American Military.

"We already are an example for the rest of the army, but we really cant be the example until we are totally independent," he said.

Some of these projects are also funded through stimulus dollars, specifically the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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