Baker Electric Solar, a full-service solar integrator, partnered with Blue Oak Energy, a renewable energy engineering design firm, to bring solar energy to the new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters complex at the U. S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, the U.S.A.
By Brian Miliate
Southern California-based Baker Electric Solar, a full-service solar integrator specializing in green technology design/build for commercial and residential solar installations, partnered with Northern California-based Blue Oak Energy, a full-service photovoltaic systems engineering firm, to design/build a 1.5 Megawatt (MW) solar system for the new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQs) complex at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) in Twentynine Palms, California. The new complex is registered and targeted for LEED Platinum.
Awarded by NAVFAC Southwest, developed by the Straub Martin-Harris Joint Venture and designed by Project Architect PGAL, LLC, Las Vegas, Nevada, the MCAGCC BEQ-9 project included three 4-story BEQs (576 two-person rooms), a landmark projection tower, 500-seat outdoor amphitheater and 706-space 4-story parking garage.
Baker Electric Inc. (BEI) and Baker Electric Solar (BES) served as subcontractors for all of the electrical and solar construction. BES specified, procured and installed all of the wiring, solar equipment and controls. The construction firm coordinated multiple trades and added a second crew shift to ensure the installation was completed on time ¦¡meeting all RFP specifications.
Blue Oak Energy (BOE) completed and coordinated the design engineering for the solar integration. BOE¡¯s engineered plans included all details required to obtain on-time permits and for BES to efficiently manage the construction process. To meet naval site-specific requirements, BOE designed custom hardware for the mounting of the solar panels.
A key challenge facing BES and BOE was the fact that owner, NAVFAC Southwest, did not want any solar arrays constructed on the building rooftops. This challenge was solved by mounting modules in usable areas, creating dual-purpose structures¦¡while tying into each specific building to qualify for LEED status. For example, the outdoor amphitheater was covered in a fan-shaped solar array. The array produces power, but also provides shade for the venue. The same approach was used for parking and recreation area shade structures. Power density was a critical factor on this project. To accommodate the constrained space, the project design utilized 4,680 SunPower¢ç E19/318 high efficiency modules.
In addition to the engineering tests met by the design/build teams, the BEQ-9 project faced logistical adversities. Located in the Mojave Desert with 300+ days of sunshine and 107+ degree temperatures, the construction team had to overcome extreme desert heat and unpredictable windstorms¦¡which threatened both health and equipment. The amphitheater crews were installing on the metal roof in the sun and actually poured water in their boots to keep cool. The project team created a two-shift work schedule to deal with the severe conditions and compress what should have been a six-month installation schedule down to just two months.
An additional logistical component was the fact that the Marine Corps base is designated live-fire. This meant that every employee on the BEQ-9 project needed to pass stringent background checks and carry base access cards. BEI was required to closely manage crew access.
The BEQ-9 project was technologically innovative in a number of ways. First, 3-D modeling was used to establish the multiple angles of the modules for the more complicated structure layouts¦¡no dummy modules were used. Every single module installed is usable and producing power, while preserving architectural aesthetics. A special module attachment clip for the canopies needed to be designed by BOE engineers to meet Navy specification. It was attached from the underside of the canopy instead of topside allowing for both faster and safer installation as well as better access for future maintenance. Additionally, BES successfully integrated the PV Data Acquisition System to the building management system¦¡the weather station, inverters, and system performance meters all synchronized with the military base central control panel.
¡°Blue Oak Energy enjoyed partnering with Baker Electric on this very unique NAVFAC project,¡± said Tobin Booth, CEO of Blue Oak Energy. ¡°The success of this job demonstrates the efficiency and creativity that results from a close collaboration between engineering and construction.¡±
The BEQ-9 project has positively impacted the military community. The PV system reduces the military base¡¯s carbon footprint and generates significant cost savings. With desert sun and 107+ degree heat, the shade provided by the dual-purpose solar arrays is welcome relief for the community¦¡not only in the recreational park area and 500-seat amphitheater, but also for protection of residents¡¯ vehicles in the 706-space parking garage.
¡°We believe the BEQ-9 project is helping to advance the renewable energy industry,¡± said Baker Electric Solar President Ted Baker. ¡°The success of this solar installation and its recurring benefits will influence the expansion of clean energy solutions for military facilities worldwide. Completed in just two months, BEQ-9 exhibits the feasibility of fast installation under extreme conditions.¡±
As one of the world¡¯s largest Marine Corp training facilities, MCAGCC draws military personnel from around the world for combined arms exercises. Annually some 50,000 Marines participate in training exercises here. Transforming energy usage is essential to prepare for our future. This project is advancing renewable energy by educating hundreds of thousands of individuals on the benefits of solar for both their career and private lives. Utilizing clean energy creates pride and boosts morale in the community by proactively supporting the United States¡¯ commitment to cut the fuel used per Marine, per day, in half by 2025, and have 50% of the bases be net-zero energy consumers.
Brian Miliate is the General Manager for Baker Electric Solar (BES), a dba of NB Baker Electric, Inc. Miliate launched his career with Baker Electric Inc. (BEI, www.baker-electric.com) in 2006 as Chief Financial Officer. He continues to hold dual positions¦¡CFO at BEI and the General Manager of BES. In his executive team role, Miliate is responsible for the overall management and strategic positioning of BES.
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