Fort Lewis College will develop a 2 megawatt solar garden at the Old Fort Lewis property south of Hesperus that will not only generate energy but provide opportunities for students and faculty to do research in aerospace, renewable and solar industries.
The initial build of The Fort Lewis Solar Innovation Park will include not only the solar facility but also a laboratory for field study.
The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade allocated $1.5 million to the solar park as part of the state’s Advanced Industry Accelerator Grant Program.
The solar park is a collaboration between FLC’s Center for Innovation, La Plata Electric Association, Teledyne Brown, Lockheed Martin Space and King Energy.
“It is a great example of business, engineering, the Innovation Center and our community partners coming together to take on an issue that’s central to Southwest Colorado, which is exactly what we want to be doing. It’s part of our commitment to experimental learning from an engineering and business side to allow our students to develop the skills that are related to the future of energy and a healthy economy,” FLC President Tom Stritikus said.
The rocky landscape available at the Old Fort is atypical for solar development, and that makes it ideal to conduct infrastructure research. The park’s researchers will test various solar installations to make the space usable and establish new industry infrastructure options for areas that aren’t flat or graded, according to a news release issued by FLC spokeswoman Lauren Savage.
The average house uses about 10.9 megawatts of electricity in a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The Old Fort’s remote location will take additional research to determine how to get the park’s energy to the grid.
Additionally, research and development relevant to aerospace will take place at the park.
“Lockheed Martin is proud to be a partner in the establishment of the Fort Lewis Solar Innovation Park,” said Joe Rice, Lockheed Martin director of government relations. “As a leader in deep space exploration, we know how critical solar energy and battery storage are in our country’s pursuits of bringing Americans back to the moon and taking humanity to Mars. The Solar Innovation Park is an exciting opportunity to help create the next generation of engineers and to expand advanced technology applications and economic opportunities in rural Colorado.”
The project will be completed within 12 months, and the solar park is expected to be self-sustaining from electricity revenues.