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Almost a year after work began on Vandenberg Air Force Base’s new solar farm, base officials are set to flip the switch next week and formally dedicate the new power source.

A Solar Array Dedication ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, at which Air Force leaders and representatives of companies that aided in the farm’s construction are expected to speak about how the 180-acre solar array will impact the base.

Base officials have said that the 28-megawatt solar photovoltaic array, located off Highway 1 just south of the base’s northern Santa Maria gate, is expected to generate enough electricity to meet about a third of the base’s energy needs. Additionally, 30th Space Wing Vice Commander Col. Gregory Wood said at last month’s State of the Base luncheon that the solar farm is expected to cut base energy costs by about $1.75 million per year over the next 25 years.

“That’s a huge opportunity and a great chance for the base to go green,” Wood said at that March 7 luncheon.

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While the cost savings are surely helpful, Dan Gerdes, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center rates and renewables division chief, suggested last year that the new energy source could also aid the base in its primary mission.

“This project not only provides significant cost avoidance for the Air Force, but a redundant, behind the meter source of energy for the installation and its critical space launch and tracking mission,” Gerdes said, according to 30th Space Wing public affairs. “Using a long-term contract with fixed costs ensures we have the electricity we need, when we need it and broadens the pool we have for power sources there. This is one step closer to our target of full energy assurance for key Air Force missions.”

The solar array, which became operational in January, is the result of a joint effort between the 30th Space Wing, SunPower Corp., the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and Defense Logistics Agency Energy.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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