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Solar panels on buildings 1201, 1202, 2008, 2067 and 2068 were completed June 10 and will help save about $160,000 a year.

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Combat Center soaks up rays

12 Jul 2010 | Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

The desert sun beats down on everything all day long, rarely inhibited by cloud cover dampening its power.

Conditions like this exist year-round and make the Combat Center a prime location for the use of solar energy, said Gary Morrissett, Utilities & Energy Manager for the Combat Center. The Combat Center capitalized on this by recently installing more than 2,400 additional solar panels.

The solar panels will help save about $160,000 a year, Morrissett said.

“We are in the Sun Belt which is one of the best areas for solar production,” said Morrissett. “So we have tried to take advantage of this opportunity and Headquarters Marine Corps has supported us do to that.”

The new panels, which were placed on buildings 1201, 1202, 2008, 2067 and 2068, are stationary and focus the energy they generate to surrounding buildings.

“Any excess power will be put into the grid itself,” said Chris Murphy, the assisting manager from Stronghold Engineering, “The main plan is to have the power meters spin backwards in this area and I think it is doing that right now.”

The old panels, which are lined up on the far end of main side, constantly rotate toward the sun to receive maximum energy all day.

Besides the sun panels, the Combat Center has been working on other ways to improve its energy independence, said Morrissett. There are controls in most of the buildings which cut power after hours, retrofitted lights, both indoors and outdoors, and motion sensors which turn lights off when no one is around.

“We are trying to use more green energy,” said Peter Mazarre, the construction manager for this project. “We are trying to lower our carbon footprint. It’s going to make it so we are not relying on generated power. It’s going to provide more energy from the sun, which is free.”

Although the technology allows for heightened energy conservation, Morrissett said the real environmental impact still lies with the individual. Combat Center patrons still need to remember to keep outside doors and windows shut when air conditioning is on and to manually switch off lights when leaving a room empty, he said.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms