As the largest energy consumer in the United States, the Department of Defense is ramping up efforts in renewable energy, and Arizona U.S. Army base Fort Huachuca is setting the bar for the military’s greener future.
Fort Huachuca, located about 50 miles southeast of Tuscon, Ariz., is breaking ground on a photovoltaic array, or solar panel installation, aimed at replacing 25 percent of the base’s electricity.
The ambitious, 68-acre project is described as the Department of Defense’s largest solar undertaking yet, according to Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for military installations, energy and environment. Officials hope to launch commercial operations by the end of the year.
The announcement is one of several recent efforts by the U.S. military to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet a 2025 deadline to produce a quarter of all energy from renewable sources. Last week the DoD issued a department-wide directive on its energy policy, emphasizing a push toward more alternative energy. 
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Thanks to cheaper costs of wind and solar installment, renewable energy installations are expected to rise 37 percent over the next two years, according to research group Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
But residents at Fort Huachuca have been bucking the trend over the last few decades, paving the way for future adapters.
The base has spearheaded a number of energy conservation projects since the 1980s, when the fort installed a solar pool-heating system, a domestic hot water system and small photovoltaic systems, according to the U.S. Army. Fort Huachuca also opened a wind turbine in January 2011 and is home to the Col. C. Smith Middle School, a “net zero” or self-sustainable school, which has won national and international recognition for its environmental design and stewardship.
“The project goes beyond the megawatts produced,” Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, Fort Huachuca commanding general, said in a statement. “It reflects our continued commitment to southern Arizona and energy security. The project will provide reliable access to electricity for daily operations and missions moving forward.”
The Fort Huachuca solar project is a collaboration between the U.S Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), Fort Huachucha, The General Services Administration, Tuscon Electric Power (TEP) and German-based developer E.ON Climate and Renewables. TEP will fund, own and manage the project, which means no taxpayer dollars spent on the ambitious installation.
Though the project is months away from commercial use, the public-private partnership underscores a new era of alternative energy expectation, and one that Fort Huachuca has long held.