US Navy makes its largest renewables investment to date with Mesquite solar farm
If there was ever any question that the United States is seriously ramping up its interests in the renewable energy market, that questioning can be put to rest. This week the U.S. Department of the Navy forged a partnership with Western Area Power Administration and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power to start work on a new expansion to Sempra’s Mesquite solar farm. While the amount invested in the project has not been disclosed, it has been confirmed as the largest purchase of renewable energy ever made by a U.S. federal entity to date.
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Established with its first build-out in 2012, Sempra’s Mesquite solar farm lies roughly 60 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona. Huffington Post reports that the facility, which “requires no water to operate and reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” has the capacity to generate as much as 700 megawatts—enough energy to power up to 260,000 homes.
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The new Mesquite Solar 3 project will involve the construction of a direct current solar facility at the Sempra Mesquite solar site, said to feature more than 650,000 photovoltaic panels on ground-mounted, horizontal single-axis trackers. This latest extension aims to generate 210 megawatts, contributing a third of the direct power needed to run to the following 14 Navy and Marine installations:
- Naval Base (NB) San Diego
- NB Coronado
- NB Point Loma
- NB Ventura County
- Naval Support Activity (NSA) Monterey
- Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Seal Beach
- NWS Det Norco
- NWS Fallbrook
- Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
- Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) 29 Palms
- Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar
- Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Barstow
- Marine Corps Recruitment Deport (MCRD) San Diego
- Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC) Bridgeport.
In addition to simply supplementing and diversifying its power sources, the U.S. Navy points out that this project will help the department with manage finances with more stable costs on a long-term basis. The project will also provide 21 percent of the power needed to reach the department’s goal of procuring one gigawatt of renewable energy by 2015—one goal on the path to the Department of Defense mandate to procure 25 percent of energy from renewable source by 2025.
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"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 Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a statement released after the ceremony commemorating this partnership. "This agreement is also projected to save the DON at least $90 million over the life of the project."
"The powerful collaboration between all parties made this project possible,” added Ronald Moulton, Area Power Administration Senior Vice President and Desert Southwest Regional Manager. “We look forward to facilitating similar agreements with other Federal agencies, helping them meet their renewable energy goals, and building more partnerships for powering the energy frontier."
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.