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DEFENSE COMMUNITIES 360

Navy Breaks Ground at China Lake on Its Largest Solar Project

  • January 19, 2012
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Navy officials held a groundbreaking Wednesday on a 118-acre solar farm at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., that is expected to supply 30 percent of the facility’s energy needs through a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

The 13.8-megawatt solar photovoltaic power system will be the largest solar project in the Navy and will help the service achieve its goal of obtaining 50 percent of its shore-based energy requirements from alternative sources by 2020.

The project was authorized under DOD’s new interpretation of the federal statute which allows PPAs, 10 USC 2922a, and represents the first 20-year PPA with a federal agency, reported the Ridgecrest Daily Independent. The long-term PPA will allow the Navy to buy electricity at up to a 30 percent discount from retail utility rates and reduce its costs by an estimated $13 million over the next 20 years.

The PPA involves no initial out-of-pocket expenses for the Navy and will provide increased energy independence and reliable, emission-free solar power to the sprawling weapons development base in the western Mojave Desert region of California beginning at the end of the year.

“This 20-year PPA will significantly lower electricity costs to the U.S. Navy over the life of the system, and can be used as a template for additional large-scale federal solar projects,” SunPower President Howard Wenger said in a written statement. The San Jose-based firm designed and manufactured the solar system, and will operate the plant when it finishes installing it at the end of the year.

The plant will use SunPower’s Oasis Power Plant product, a fully integrated, modular solar block consisting of 31,680 high-efficiency solar panels. An affiliate of MetLife Inc. purchased the system that SunPower is building.

SunPower has worked with federal agencies since 1999 and has installed more than 25 megawatts of solar power systems at government facilities, including solar plants at Nellis AFB, Nev.; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Naval Base Coronado, Calif.; Fort Dix, N.J.; and the Air Force Academy, Colo.

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