Coming Soon: The Solar-Powered Navy

It may not be powering its ships using the sun, but the U.S. Navy will soon be using solar power to keep at least some of the lights on at 14 of its installations in California.

The Department of the Navy (DON) recently signed an agreement with Western Area Power Administration and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power to construct a 150-MW solar facility. The deal is the largest purchase of renewable energy ever made by a federal entity.

The solar farm will consist of 650,000 photovoltaic panels on ground-mounted, horizontal single-axis trackers at Sempra U.S. Power’s Mesquite Solar 3 project located about 60 miles west of Phoenix, Ariz. It is expected to provide about a third of the energy needed to power 14 Navy and Marine Corps installations.

The installations include: Naval Base (NB) San Diego, NB Coronado, NB Point Loma, NB Ventura County, Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, Naval War Station (NWS) Corona, NWS Seal Beach, NWS Fallbrook, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, and Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport.

In 2009, Congress mandated that the Department of Defense produce or procure 25% of its total facility energy from renewable sources by 2025, with each service responsible for generating a portion of that renewable energy. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus accelerated the DON’s goal, directing his group to procure 1 GW of renewable energy by the end of 2015. The Mesquite Solar 3 project will not only contribute toward Mabus’ goal, but will also help the 14 installations comply with California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (Figure 1).

1. Renewable energy for U.S. forces.
Mesquite Solar 3 will help diversify the Department of the Navy’s power portfolio. Courtesy: U.S. Navy/Austin Rooney

“The collaboration on Mesquite Solar 3 is a triumph of innovative problem solving, and will help to increase the DON’s energy security by diversifying our power portfolio and improving energy efficiency,” said Mabus. “This agreement is also projected to save the DON at least $90 million over the life of the project.”

With the signing of Mesquite 3, last month’s groundbreaking on a 13-MW project that Duke Energy is constructing for the DON at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and an upcoming groundbreaking at Kings Bay, Ga., on a 30-MW project that the DON is collaborating on with Georgia Power, the DON already has projects totaling 1.2 GW in its renewable energy pipeline.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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