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."