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Solar project at fort to create hundreds of jobs

Construction to start by 2013

FORT IRWIN •  A large scale solar energy project at Fort Irwin is expected to create hundreds of jobs, but shovels won’t be hitting the ground for another two to three years.

The solar sites will create up to 400 construction jobs and 350 jobs to maintain and operate the power plants over a 10-year period, according to Brian Crunk, project manager of Clark Energy Group, one of the two renewable energy developers working on the project.

The Arlington, Va.-based group has teamed with Acciona Solar Power, based in Madrid, Spain, which operates the massive Nevada Solar One power plants in Boulder City, Nev.

Once completed, the solar power plants at Fort Irwin will be the Department of Defense’s largest ever solar energy project.

“This is not a small endeavor,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Abrams, head of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, at a press conference Thursday.

Before construction can begin, the two groups must conduct an environmental impact study, said Jerry Hansen, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Strategic Infrastructure, at the press conference.

Only after that will construction begin, said Crunk, noting that jobs will include electricians, mechanics and site workers that will range in the skill specialty required.

Developers look to hire locally if subcontractors in the area can provide workers with the necessary training, Crunk said.

The solar power sites will feature both photovoltaic panels and solar technology using mirrors and turbines across five locations on post, including areas at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex and one area that borders a soldier training zone.

Army officials entered into an agreement called an enhanced use lease with Clark and Acciona, which means that  Fort Irwin will be receiving the energy generated from the solar sites in exchange for letting the developers build on federal land for the privately-funded project.

According to Abrams, the fort will use a maximum of 28-megawatts of the generated energy. The rest will be sold and used by residents across the southern California power grid.

According to Army officials, the completed project will be the equivalent of taking 865,000 cars off the road each year.

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