Here’s a video that shows where I spent my afternoon: on a tour of the (currently) 2 megawatt solar photovoltaics facility at Fort Hunter Liggett in Central California, now the largest solar array on a military base in the U.S. – and soon to be a microgrid. As I took a tour with some colleagues, work was underway for Phase Two, which will add two more MW, and enough battery storage such that the only connection to the larger grid will be to enable the base to sell excess power to the local utility (Pacific Gas and Electric).
Everything about what I saw was impressive, except the price. Because the PV canopy serves dual purposes (power generation and a “garage” for many hundreds of enormous pieces of equipment) it’s 18 feet off the ground and built on piers that need to withstand the impact of a tank running into them. Those piers are a yard in diameter, and 10 feet into the ground – and we’re talking about ground that is super-compacted to withstand the punishment that such equipment will inflict as it moves in and out over the years. It’s about $8/watt installed.