Home » Budget Industry » Navy, Marines Hail Mega Solar Farm Powering 14 Bases, Stations

Navy, Marines Hail Mega Solar Farm Powering 14 Bases, Stations


Navy and Marine Corps officials gathered in the Arizona desert at midday Friday to dedicate a solar farm that will generate one-third of the electricity to power 14 Navy and Marine Corps installations in California.

The 210-megawatts solar array facility at Sempra U.S. Gas & Power’s Mesquite Solar 3 facility marks the largest purchase of renewable energy by a federal entity, according to the Navy. The Department of the Navy last year signed a 25-year agreement with Sempra, the federal Western Area Power Administration and Shell Energy to purchase solar power, with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The direct-current facility is expected to generate enough electricity equal to powering about 69,000 homes in California when it is fully operational by the end of 2016, according to Sempra. The Mesquite complex, about an hour west of Phoenix, is one of the nation’s largest photovoltaic farms.

Top officials with the solar pact’s partners gathered for the Friday ceremony that kicked off the start of its commercial operations. “This ceremony marks the completion of one of the first, and most monumental, renewable energy projects undertaken by the Navy,” Dennis McGinn, a retired vice admiral and the Navy’s assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment, said in a Navy press release. “The 14 Navy and Marine Corps installations that will be receiving the power produced by Mesquite Solar 3 will be getting more than just clean, renewable power. They will be getting increased energy resiliency and security, which is crucial to maintaining our mission readiness.”

Those installations are: Naval Bases San Diego, Coronado, Point Loma and Ventura County; Naval Support Activity Monterey; Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach; NWS Seal Beach Detachment Norco; NWS Seal Beach Detachment Fallbrook; Camp Pendleton; Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar; Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow; Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego; and Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport.

The Navy, in part led by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, continues to expand the services’ energy footprint toward more renewable sources including solar, wind, biofuels and even wave energy. Mabus, who in August 2015 signed the 25-year, public-private pact for Mesquite 3, has been vocal in the importance of reducing energy consumption, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and finding alternative sources, as well as shrinking the services’ carbon footprint.

 A 2015 infographic depicting how the Sempra Mesquite Solar 3 photovoltaic facility will provide maximum capacity of 210 megawatts of direct current to meet a third of the energy needs of 14 Department of the Navy installations. US Navy Image

A 2015 infographic depicting how the Sempra Mesquite Solar 3 photovoltaic facility will provide maximum capacity of 210 megawatts of direct current to meet a third of the energy needs of 14 Department of the Navy installations. US Navy Image

By 2020, Mabus wants the Navy and Marine Corps to get half its energy needs – afloat and ashore – from non-fossil fuel sources. “It’s pretty ambitious energy goals,” he admitted, in a luncheon talk at the National Press Club on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Just last year, he said, the services hit the 50 percent mark for its shore-based facilities, five years ahead of the deadline, or more than 1.2 of the 2 gigawatt requirement those facilities need from alternative sources. Interest in renewables is spreading globally, Mabus noted. And at sea, during last summer’s large, multinational Rim-of-the-Pacific exercise, ships from nine countries took biofuel from U.S. Navy ships, he said.

Overall, the Navy has cut its oil use by 15 percent, the secretary said, and the Marine Corps by 60 percent, fueled, in part, by its end of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that had heightened demand. Even Navy SEALs are getting “close to net zero” by using alternative energies, such as purifying water, he added.

Solar energy from Mesquite “will shift our use from brown energy to renewable energy significantly,” 1st Lt. Abigail Peterson, a Marine Corps Installations-West spokeswoman, said in an email. Just how much will the solar power save, compared to fossil fuel costs? That will depend on consumption, more than market fluctuations.

“Since the price is fixed through the agreement, we are unable to estimate the cost projection. In our budgeting process, however, there is value in knowing what the cost of a future requirement will be,” Peterson said.
“For MCIWEST, energy security is a top priority,” she added. “Providing renewable energy to our installations makes them more efficient which means better training for our Marines to project power across the globe.”

In the West, the Mesquite 3 facility’s solar arrays are expected to provide 21 percent of the energy needed to meet Mabus’ one gigawatt goal – already reached – by the end of 2016.

“The Navy has become a leader in renewable energy and advanced biofuels by demonstrating a long term vision to advance clean energy and security,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in the statement. “The Department of Energy is committed to close cooperation with the Navy on clean energy. Mesquite Solar 1 and 3 exemplify how DOE provides crucial early financing to demonstrate cutting-edge projects at commercial scale for subsequent private sector investment.”

“Our long-standing partnership with the U.S. Navy is a perfect example of our mission dedication,” said Mark Gabriel, WAPA administrator and chief executive officer. “
Together, we strengthen coordination efforts to enhance national energy security and demonstrate federal government leadership as our nation transitions to a low carbon economy. Today, we celebrate the culmination of that partnership, of innovation and technology, and a better way of doing business.” Kevin Sagara, senior vice president and president of Sempra Renewables, praised the partnership with the Navy and WAPA. “These organizations are helping drive our nation’s energy future,” Sagara said in the statement, “and this latest expansion of the Mesquite Solar complex reflects their progressive vision and leadership.”

  • JimB

    megawatts not megahertz in the second sentence

  • Ed L

    wonder what the impact on local wildlife will be. Who did the environmental impact study?

    • uncaherb

      Wind farms already slaughter raptors and other protected species, I’m sure a few reptiles were displaced and a bird or three will get fried…

    • USNVO

      I would doubt that the impact is any more, in fact probably way less, than all the Central Pivot Irrigated Fields popping up in Arizona. Or the change in local weather caused by all the pools and the importation of invasive species, not to mention roads and power lines.

  • Eric Arllen

    All Hail Gaia!

    Strange that Fuentes doesn’t include a statement of the acreage this boondoggle occupies and its impact on sainted Mother Nature? I wonder if the cited 69,000 homes could fit onto the array site?

    Another thought and a ponderable. Since solar farms go on varying degrees of vacation when the Sun has set (total vacation) or is obscured (partial vacation), do the USN/USMC activities supplied take corresponding vacations? Of course not. So if the Sun is taking a break, do they not have to fall back onto carbon-based fuels to generate power? I wonder just how that most “inconvenient truth” factors into the program?

    • Rick Lewis

      They have factored in that the Sun isn’t shining all the time – they array provides only 1/3 of the power for the facilities. The other 2/3 covers nights, cloudy days, etc. It allows us to use 1/3 less carbon-based fuels for power generation, meaning less imported oil, less fracking, etc. These panels are also designed, build, installed, and maintained by Americans. It’s a win all around.

  • Norman Purdy

    Next week’s story—Multiple Military Bases Lose Power Due To Paintball Fight……..

  • Dan Barber

    Sounds good, but did anyone actually inspect the large solar farms just outside and inside the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms, and those mega solar farms scattered across the California desert, to include those interspersed among the 3,000 plus wind generators in the Banning pass near Palm Springs? Remember the old trick of pulling a quarter out of the ear of a child? This trick is the current administration pulling billions out of the pocket of taxpayers and redistributing the cash to favored donors. Also, officials should rethink the acronym REPO!

  • RobM1981

    I’ve got a real problem with my tax dollars being used to fund solar for people’s homes, but for the Navy? That seems like a good idea. My key driver is power-source diversity. Solar power might be expensive, but it is real. If today you wanted to go off of the grid, this is a great way to do it – in part. You need a few different sources, and they are expensive, but they definitely work. They’re getting better, too.

    For military bases I like the thought of having diverse power sources.

  • uncaherb

    Love how all these “jobs” get created out of thin air every time someone talks about renewable energy. Personally I’ve had solar on my roof for 6 years and my bill is less than a dollar every month, but I have to pay SCE&G a line use fee, that no one talked about during the sales pitch. Lower than electric bills used to be but still 1400.00+ annually, for the privilege of being hooked to the grid to sell my generated power to the company.

  • Roger W Settlemyer

    My main concern is the panels themselves, are they made in China or the USA ? American Jobs. If they come from China, what Politician signed off this project. Follow The Money.

  • Kelly

    Is the picture of the actual facility? If so, it’s not what I consider photo voltaic. It’s concentrated solar. That’s a better approach because it stores the heated medium and uses it in a more steady state manner.
    That helps solve the issue of the intermittent nature of sun and night. It also avoids the fried birds issue with the other big concentrated solar facility in the high desert in Calif. That one uses a tower in the middle.

    • Secundius

      They Look Like Directional Focusing Mirrors, for Concentration Sun Light ti Center Spire Tower with Probably as Liquid Sodium Stirling Steam Engine Generator…

    • EnserNG

      The image is almost assuredly elsewhere, as Mesquite 3 is a flat-panel PV installation. As such, few, of any wild creatures should be impacted by its use.

      Due to its location, and based on historical data, the site has consistent sunlight, with minimal cloud formation.

  • Donald Carey

    Solar power facilities are not without their effect on climate change. While they may reduce carbon emissions, they add to the heat the earth gets from the sun as they change the albedo (“the proportion of the incident light or radiation that is reflected by a surface”), of the area they occupy. As the deserts they are usually built on usually have a high albedo (they are light colored and reflect a large amount of sunlight back into space), and the solar power facility is dark colored, which absorbs much more of the sunlight that hits it. That, and the electricity generated, which ends up as heat, means more heat to the planet. It may even end up causing more warming than using fosil fuel (not counting the impact of their manufacture).


    • Secundius

      A Typical US Military Base Stores ~8-Billion Liters of Fuel for Everything that Requires Fuel on a Military Base. Including Power Plants, Take-Away the Needs of the Power Plants. Frees Up Extra Fuel for the Equipment That Actually Need It, The Vehicles to Fight Wars With…

      • Donald Carey

        True, but only partly – the base will still keep fuel for back-up. I don’t know what your comment has to do with what I posted, though – also, what’s with capitalizing most of the words in your post – that is not correct English, are you a native English speaker?

        • Secundius

          Force of Habit? “Boldfacing, Italics and Underlining” Features No Longer Work on my Computer, So I “Capitalize” to “Empathize” Key Words. Money’s Tight and Can’t Afford to Replace at this time. Depends on Definition of “English”? First Ten Years, Educated in English Missionary Schools. So Some Spelling are in the “English Written Way”. Parents were Low-Level Foreign Service Diplomats working in Far East After the Second World War. So No American Schooling Until After 1961. Sentencing Structures are Due to “Stroke” in 2009, “Still” in Process of Reeducating Brain to Make Coherent Sentences that Doesn’t Sound Like “Yoda” on Star Wars…

          • Donald Carey

            Sorry to hear of your health issues – I wish you well on your recovery. As for not having italics, etc., if your point is truly valid, they aren’t needed.

          • Secundius

            @ Donald Carey.


  • Princess America

    I am interested in renewable energy and noticed a few years back the
    potential for a solar project at 29 palms and saw the work that had been
    going on at Edwards. I think its great that the US military took a lead
    on this most important of issues and hope this policy will continue.Thanks 🙂