Solar project at Tooele draws top Pentagon brass
Tooele • Army depot to start installing 430 solar concentrators.
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Tooele Army Depot • Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said that as a young captain at Fort Carson in Colorado, he was given the mission to protect Tooele Army Depot if it were ever attacked.

It wasn't, and he never made it to the depot — until Friday, when, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dempsey helped break ground on what he called a pioneering renewable energy project.

Tooele Army Depot this fall will begin installing 430 dish-style solar concentrators built by Infinia Corp. of Ogden. The project will boost Utah's solar power capacity by 15 percent when it begins producing electricity in the spring. The dishes will be spread over 17 acres about a mile west of the depot's administrative offices, in an area designated as an energy corridor. A wind turbine was placed there in 2010.

"This is exciting for me to see this start to evolve," Dempsey told a crowd of about 100 civic leaders and depot employees, standing with a solar dish as a backdrop.

Dempsey said the Department of Defense's new emphasis on energy conservation and production is about being better stewards of the nation's resources as well as saving money.

But such projects should also translate to the battlefield, and could mean fewer warriors are needed to drive fuel trucks over roads seeded with hidden explosives.

"If we can figure out how to use this in Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever else we find ourselves, we're going to be safer," Dempsey told reporters in a brief press conference.

He said he was headed to Afghanistan and Iraq after leaving Utah.

Depot Commander Col. Chris Mohan said he has seen smaller versions of solar arrays hooked up to a tactical generator in the field.

"This gets us so much closer to energy independence and less costly support of the war fighter," Mohan said.

The commander noted that Dempsey was the highest ranking military leader to visit the depot since Dwight D. Eisenhower in the late 1940s, before he became president.

Tooele Army Depot's 550 civilian employees store, ship and remove explosives from ammunition, and design and build equipment for handling ammunition. It's the only government ammunition depot west of the Mississippi.

Tooele is one of 17 military installations chosen for the Department of Defense's Net Zero program, which means it has a goal to produce and conserve as much energy as it uses.

The wind turbine and solar array projects are each expected to produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity, a combined 60 percent of the depot's energy use.

According to the nonprofit Utah Clean Energy, the depot's array will be one of the larger solar power installations in Utah. A 1.5-megawatt generator is enough to provide power to 300 to 400 homes.

Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment, accompanied Dempsey. She said the Tooele solar project might also supply electricity for Tooele County.

"We view this as a resource to develop energy security for the military, but also to provide energy security to this local area," she said.

The Tooele project is unique due to the technology developed by Infinia Corp., which moved to Ogden from Kennewick, Wash., last August. It couples reflective mirrors on a dish that tracks the sun with a Stirling engine that generates the electricity.

The contract for the $9.6 million project is between the Army Corps of Engineers and CDM Constructors Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., but the 430 PowerDishes are being built in Ogden. Infinia President Mike Ward, former president of Autoliv Americas, said the company now has 80 employees in Ogden and expects to grow to several hundred. This is the first major commercial project for the company.