|Solar photovoltaic panels in Utah - much smaller project than the Navy project.|
The Navy's energy strategy takes the "long view" necessary to keep our Navy and our nation strong. Bottom line: incorporating energy initiatives now will allow us to more effectively carry out our mission in the future.In 2009, Congress mandated that 25 percent of the energy used in Department of Defense facilities come from renewable sources by 2025. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus then set an accelerated goal for his branch of the military: 1 gigawatt of renewable energy procurement by the end of 2015. In the Navy's view, resources like solar power can help diversify its shore energy portfolio and provide long-term cost stability, which ultimately contributes to the Navy's overall energy security priorities.
In furtherance of this goal, last year the Western Area Power Administration issued a request for proposals for renewable energy projects to supply power to Navy facilities in California. Through a competitive process, Sempra U.S. Gas & Power LLC was selected to develop the Mesquite 3 Solar project. Sempra is a subsidiary of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, a major energy services holding company. It has developed a variety of solar and wind energy generation projects, including the existing Mesquite 1 Solar project about 60 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona.
The Navy announced that it had signed the agreement on August 20, at a ceremony co-hosted by Western Area Power Administration and Sempra. Under the Navy deal, Sempra will develop the Mesquite 3 project as an expansion of the existing Mesquite site. Mesquite 3 will feature over 650,000 photovoltaic panels on ground-mounted, horizontal single-axis trackers. Construction is scheduled to begin in August, with completion expected by the end of 2016. While pricing terms have not been disclosed, the Navy reports that it will save at least $90 million over the life of the project.
Will other units of federal government follow the Navy's model in contracting for renewable energy in this manner? How will solar project business structures change if federal entities start playing a larger role as buyers?