FORT RILEY — Two workers stood on the roof of a Fort Riley home on a sunny, breezy Thursday afternoon, shifting a solar panel until it was in the right place. As one man held down the panel, another drilled it into place. On the ground, two workers directed the men on the roof, making sure the panel’s placement looked good from their view.
The home is one of 1,260 houses on post that will get solar panels installed by October. A row of neighboring houses with solar panels traces the same residential street as Onyx Renewable Partners employees work their way through the neighborhood installing the panels in four phases.
A few blocks away, two workers installed mounts on a roof, the first phase of installation. At the entrance of the same street, another group of workers placed racks on the mounts, preparing them for the panels. The group of almost 50 employees worked its way south through the neighborhood. Electricians come in during the installation to set up electric boxes on the side of each home.
Corvias, a private housing development, construction and property management company that oversees 3,827 residential homes on Fort Riley, started the solar program this month in an effort to reduce energy costs. The panels will offset 37 percent of overall energy use in houses where they’re installed.
“It’s important to continue to look at ways that we can stabilize our costs as a project,” said Clay Boyer, operations director for Corvias at Fort Riley. “This helps in that by stabilizing the utility rates.”
Onyx Renewable Partners, LLC, is installing the panels at no cost to the military. Corvias will use the savings from reduced electricity costs to pay the energy company for its work, meaning soldiers won’t see reduced bills as a result of the initiative, Boyer said. However, the panels will save money for Corvias, which the company says will benefit the Army in the long run.
The solar project is the largest in the state of Kansas and is expected to generate 10.5 megawatts of solar power in the first year. The program is equivalent to removing 2,736 cars from the road or planting 14,510 acres of forest.
“I think it sets a good example regionally for initiatives to essentially find alternative means of production of energy,” Boyer said. “No different than wind farms.”
The installation process from start to finish takes about eight hours per home, but because it’s done in phases the work on each home spans four days, Boyer said. Corvias employees have placed signs around the neighborhood to inform residents that the project is underway. They also emailed residents and updated their Facebook page. Workers notify the residents 24 hours in advance before they start installation on the home.
The homes receiving solar panels were determined through a study that looked at the angles of roofs and how much sunlight each home is exposed to.
Corvias, which operates on six Army bases and six Air Force bases has started solar programs on three other bases and plans to continue the program throughout all its bases.
The company’s goal is to install 30.5 megawatts total across all 13 of the posts it operates in, eliminating 92,000 tons of carbon emissions each year. Fort Riley’s program will account for 10.5 of the 30.5 megawatts, Boyer said.