US Navy commits to 210MW solar deal

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The US Navy has committed to developing 210MW of solar PV across 14 military installations in what has been labeled the largest purchase of renewable energy ever agreed by a US federal entity.

The Navy will collaborate with Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Sempra US Gas & Power for the projects, which will help the US Department of Defense (DoD) meet targets set by Congress in 2009 to derive 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

In May last year the Department of the Navy (DON) tasked WAPA with issuing a request for proposals before selecting Sempra’s proposed  Mesquite Solar 3, which forms part of the utility’s Mesquite Solar Project in Phoenix, Arizona.

Around 650,000 solar panels will be deployed with a total generation capacity of 210MW, providing around one-third of the total energy demand of 14 separate Navy and Marine Corps facilities. Development of the project is expected to start later this month and complete by the end of 2016.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said the facility would save the DON around $90 million in energy costs over the project’s lifetime and also contribute towards his goal of bringing 1GW of renewable energy into the navy’s procurement process by the end of 2015.

“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,” he said.

The Mesquite Solar Project has a planned combined capacity of 700MW but is being completed in stages. Sempra completed Phase 1, which has a nameplate capacity of 150MW, two years ago at a cost of around $600 million before signing a 20-year PPA with Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

“The development of Mesquite Solar 3 will continue to stimulate the local economy in the region and would not have been possible without the strong support of neighboring communities, regulators and local, state and federal officials,” said Patti Wagner, president and CEO of Sempra US Gas & Power.

In January this year the US Navy and Air Force combined to commission three solar projects on Florida’s Gulf coast with a total capacity of 120MW, and in April utility Mississippi Power was tasked with developing two projects in the southern US state with a combined capacity of 53MW.

Mesquite Solar 3, together with other projects in North Carolina and Georgia that have broken ground recently, takes the US Navy’s PV pipeline to 1.2GW.

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