Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Air Force Academy Spirit

Report clears road for solar array construction

By Ann Patton

Academy Spirit staff


The 10th Air Base Wing commander signed a Finding of No Significant Impact statement April 21, allowing the Academy and Colorado Springs Utilities to move forward on an 8-megawatt solar array scheduled to begin construction in August.

Col. Rick LoCastro said the solar array will be a pinnacle of the Academy’s “Falcon Green” project and a model for other Air Force bases to emulate.

“We are trying to lead the way in renewable energy,” Colonel LoCastro said.

The Academy was selected in November 2009 as the Air Force’s “net zero” installation, meaning that the Academy intends to wean itself from non-renewable energy by 2015. The Academy currently generates 10 percent of its power from renewable energy, and the $18.3-million solar array will add another 5  to 10 percent.

“We want to move forward quickly,” Colonel LoCastro said.

CSU will manage the facility under a lease agreement. Bill Nixon, a representative from CSU, said that safety and aesthetics are primary concerns. The Academy hosts approximately 1 million visitors per year, including football games and other on-base events.

Selection of the construction firm is expected to be completed in early summer. Colorado Springs Utilities, the Academy and the Denver engineering firm Burns and McDonnell will determine the contract’s recipient.

Protecting the environment

The Air Force Academy and its partners will take steps to preserve the prairie environment near the South Gate and minimize the impact of construction. Some of the mitigation steps include:

Silt fences will be used to protect wetlands and other sensitive sites.

Equipment will not be serviced or refueled near streams, and all chemicals and petroleum products will be stored and contained away from water sources.

All solid waste generated during construction will be removed by the contractor and disposed of at an appropriate off-base disposal facility.

Vehicle traffic will be managed within the construction zone, and contractor hauling of materials, supplies and equipment will be controlled.

Areas where vegetation is removed will be revegetated where practicable according to the Academy’s “Standard Specifications for Site Restoration, Revegetation and Trees” or will be graded and have weed barrier covered with rock applied.

The Academy will adhere to the terms and conditions of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse conservation agreement and any consultation required under the Endangered Species Act.Surveys for nesting birds will be conducted in areas proposed for disturbance, and if active nests are identified in the disturbance area, ground-disturbing activities will be delayed until the nesting and fledging process is complete, or alternatively, a depredation permit will be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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