U.S. Navy Invests Big in Solar Energy Installation

Energy facility marks the biggest federal investment in renewable energy infrastructure to date.

by / September 3, 2015
On Aug. 20 in San Diego, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus delivers remarks during a ceremony commemorating an agreement with Western Area Power Administration and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power to construct a 210 megawatt direct current solar facility. The agreement is the largest purchase of renewable energy ever made by a federal entity.

The United States Navy made the largest federal agency investment in renewable energy to date with a solar farm project known as Mesquite 3.

Officials with the Department of the Navy (DON), the Western Area Power Administration, and Sempra U.S. Gas and Power signed the formal agreement in July, but gathered at an event in Coronado, Calif., on Aug. 20 to celebrate the substantial investment in renewable energy.

The agreement outlined a new 210-megawatt facility that will provide partial power to 14 West Coast DON installations. The move toward solar power will also mean improved diversity for the federal agency’s power portfolio.

"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," Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said at the event. "This agreement is also projected to save the DON at least $90 million over the life of the project."

Power from more than 650,000 photovoltaic panels, to be located 60 miles outside of Phoenix, Ariz., will provide roughly one-third of the energy needed for the Navy facilities. The solar farm will help the 14 facilities comply with California's Renewable Portfolio Standard.

As part of a congressional mandate in 2009, the Department of Defense was directed to produce or procure 25 percent of facility energy needs through renewable sources by 2025. Mabus accelerated that goal, directing the DON to procure 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy by the end of 2015, according to a DON press release.

The Mesquite 3 project, as well as renewable energy projects in North Carolina and Georgia, bring the Navy’s future renewable energy supply to a total of 1.2 GW. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.

The installations that will be provided solar energy from the Mesquite 3 Solar farm include: Naval Base (NB) San Diego, NB Coronado, NB Point Loma, NB Ventura County, Naval Support Activity Monterey, Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Seal Beach, NWS Det Norco, 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 Recruitment Deport San Diego and Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport.