Officials from the Navy, Air Force and Gulf Power held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday at Naval Air Station Pensacola to mark the start of construction of solar arrays at Pensacola and two other military facilities on the tip of the Florida Panhandle.
The three solar farms will have about 1.5 million solar panels that can generate up to 120 megawatts of alternating current power, enough to power 18,000 homes on a sunny day, according to a joint press release. Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Georgia-based Southern Co., and its third-party developer, Coronal Development Services, will construct the three facilities at:
- Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach — 30-megawatt generating capacity;
- Outlying Landing Field Holley in Navarre (NAS Whiting Field) — 40 megawatts; and
- Outlying Landing Field Saufley in Pensacola (NAS Pensacola) — 50 megawatts.
Gulf Power will serve its customers across Northwest Florida with power from the new solar facilities, which are expected to be operational by next December. The solar farms will not replace the utility’s generation plants but, instead, will allow it to diversify the power supply and provide a cost-effective alternative during peak-energy usage.
Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, said the two Navy projects will have a variety of benefits.
“Together, we can provide physical security to the assets, increase the regional grid resiliency and upgrade the energy infrastructure where our sailors and aviators live and work, as well as stimulate economic activity through development,” McGinn said. “Energy, the economy, the environment and our national security are bound together; you cannot affect one without affecting the others, and these projects have positive benefits in all four dimensions.”
Miranda Ballentine, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and energy, highlighted the ways that the public-private collaboration behind the project at Eglin — accomplished via an enhanced use lease — benefits the Air Force, industry and local communities.
“The Air Force is focused on using these types of partnerships as a viable business model to improve the service’s energy resiliency and provide mission assurance through energy assurance,” Ballentine said.