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Army entering electricity business in Utah

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TOOELE — United States military bases are moving into the electricity business, and the Tooele Army Depot will be one of the first to get a utility-sized project.

The Defense Department set a goal of getting 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like solar, geo- thermal and wind.

First out-of-the-chute at the Tooele Army Depot is a striking project that a lot of people are going to notice.

A company called Infinia developed a new design for collecting solar energy. Now the Army has chosen the company to build a farm of Infinia Power Dishes on land at Tooele Army Depot. The company will build 430 of the dishes, 22 feet in diameter, that revolve to track the sun from sun- up to sundown. The dishes will stand on currently vacantland on the base.

This is the depot's first utility-scale move in the direction of renewable energy.

"We want to be secure, we want, if the power grid goes down, we still want to be able to do business here," said Tooele Army Depot Business Development Specialist Raymond Torres.

Tooele Army Depot has only a single windmill right now for renewable energy. But Rocky Mountain Power is building a high-voltage transmission line nearby. The Army will provide land to developers with renewable energy proposals.

We want to be secure, we want, if the power grid goes down, we still want to be able to do business here.

–- Raymond Torres, Tooele Army Depot

"We're talking about large-scale solar facilities, a wind farm, and bio-mass facilities," Torres said.

Solar energy and other sustainable energy developers like Molonai Hola are eager to get involved.

"The fact that the Army is opening up to do renewable energy development is really exciting and there's a lot of interest around the country for renewable energy," said Hola, Pacific Pure Energy President and CEO.

The first project chosen, Infinia's power dishes, will use parabolic mirrors to focus the Sun's rays. The solar energy heats up a chamber of helium gas. As it's heated and cooled, the gas expands and contracts, driving a piston to generate electricity.

Components of the dishes will be manufactured right on the base.

"What I would like to see is that the depot is totally off the energy grid, providing us some power from the developers and employing between 30 to 50 depot employees," Torres said.

Infinia recently moved its corporate headquarters to Ogden from Washington State. They expect to begin construction later this year and begin generating electricity in November.

The Army is investing $8.7 million in the project currently, and about half will go toward the Infinia project. Other big projects may be paid for with private investment.


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John Hollenhorst


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