A section of solar panels being used at Fort Knox.
FT. KNOX, KY (WAVE) - Imagine paying nothing at all for your electric bill! It sounds like a big dream, but it's the goal of Ft. Knox. By this time next year, officials hope to be able to unplug the entire post from the grid, and use only the electricity they're generating. It won't be permanent, but if leaders can accomplish it, it will be a first for an Army installation.
"The energy bill on Ft. Knox is the second largest bill behind personnel payroll," said Patrick Walsh, director of public works at Ft. Knox.
That means, said Walsh, cutting the energy use - or finding a way to produce it yourself - equals big savings. A new solar field is part of that plan: 10-acres, almost 10,000 solar panels, producing power for the post as a result of a public-private partnership. Walsh said on a good day it can power the largest building on post, or produce about ten percent of the power that the post uses.
"The problem with solar power is it's been expensive over time," he said.
So Walsh challenged nearby companies to come up with a solution. Nolin RECC and Earthwell Energy led the charge. Now the government is paying off the solar panel project over 25 years at a rate that would equal a typical electric bill. After that, the power it produces is free.
"So it's really very little additional cost but having the green power instead of regular coal-fired electricity," Walsh said.
That's not the only green project in the green hills of Ft. Knox.
"We have reserves of biogenic methane gas on post and we harvest that and actually in the summertime, we don't buy any gas, we just pull our own gas out of the ground," said Walsh.
In the ground, geo-thermal heating and air conditioning systems help control the temperature in the buildings.
"When we proved it worked, we've gotten phone calls from many Army installations and now that's kind of the model for the Army now," Walsh said.
All of it is to not only meet the Army goal of net-zero water use, net-zero waste on post, but to leap past it to net-zero energy.
"By this time next year, we're going to demonstrate that we can survive without any type of purchase power at all," Walsh said.
Walsh said everyone on Ft. Knox has worked together as well to cut down on the amount of power used on post. As a result, energy consumption is down 51% in the past ten years.
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725 S. Floyd Street
Louisville, KY 40203