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Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and the U.S. Army work to boost Fort Sill's power capabilities

PSO proposes building a power plant for Fort Sill that would feature reciprocating engines powered by natural gas like these and an installation of solar panels to provide the base with an independent source of energy if the regional grid were to fail. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
PSO proposes building a power plant for Fort Sill that would feature reciprocating engines powered by natural gas like these and an installation of solar panels to provide the base with an independent source of energy if the regional grid were to fail. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

LAWTON — Resiliency is part of readiness for the U.S. Army.

In June, both it and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma announced plans to improve the capability of Fort Sill to continue operating during critical times when power might not be available.

The agreement between the Army and utility announced they signed a 30-year deal (with an option to extend it for 10 years), with PSO leasing 81 acres on the base where it will install both natural gas-fired reciprocating engines and solar power that would, in emergency situations, provide the installation with enough power to keep carrying out its critical tasks for up to 14 days.

During routine conditions, the installed upgrades would provide the grid PSO operates with up to 50 megawatts of additional power it could use to supply energy to its customers.

The reciprocating engines would have a combined capacity of 36 megawatts of energy, while the solar installation would have a capacity of 14 megawatts, officials said.

“Army installations like Fort Sill require secure access to energy to accomplish critical missions,” said Alex A. Beehler, an assistant Army secretary who oversees programs involving installations, energy and the environment.

“When we can achieve this objective, while also benefiting the local community, it’s a win-win solution.”

PSO officials said they currently are evaluating data submitted from vendors after making requests for proposals to evaluate manufacturing and installation costs for the engines and solar panels.

Part of that evaluation will include a look at whether or not the projects would cost its customers money.

The utility hopes to start building the projects in late 2021. However, it will need approval from regulators before construction can begin.

Data provided by the Army indicated the lease won’t cost PSO money, as the base will have first right to the new installations’ power in cases where there is a regional grid outage.

The reciprocating engines will have self-start capability, with switchgear that can isolate the system to the base during outage situations.

The Army highlighted how the collaboration will benefit both the base and community.

Fort Sill, located about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, is a hub of joint and multinational partnered training that covers almost 94,000 acres, including more than 80,000 acres of training land.

The base is home of the Fires Center of Excellence, which continually and progressively educates, trains, and inspires “Fires” soldiers and leaders and develops requisite capabilities to ensure current and future forces can accomplish their missions while providing unparalleled support to the Fort Sill Community.

Fort Sill is a designated National Historic Landmark and serves as home of the United States Army Field Artillery School as well as the Marine Corps' site for Field Artillery Military Occupational Specialties school, United States Army Air Defense Artillery School, the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade and the 75th Field Artillery Brigade.

Fort Sill is also one of the four locations for Army Basic Combat Training, and has played a significant role in every major American conflict since 1869, data on its website states.

Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›

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