Defense IT

Navy makes largest federal purchase of solar power

Navy Mabus solar power purchase

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus signs a solar panel during a ceremony marking the agreement.


Fourteen Navy installations in California will get as much as a third of their power from solar energy, following the Navy’s agreement to make the largest purchase of renewable energy of any federal entity, an agreement that calls for the construction of a 210-megawatt direct-current solar facility.

At a recent ceremony in Coronado, Calif., Navy Secretary Ray Mabus hosted a ceremony with Western Area Power Administration and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power to mark the agreement, which was signed last month, according to a Navy announcement.

The Navy and Western in May 2014 kicked off the interagency project, with Western issuing a request for proposals and ultimately selecting Sempra’s Mesquite Solar 3 project. The facility at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., will have more than 650,000 photovoltaic panels on ground-mounted, horizontal single-axis trackers, the Navy said. Work begins this month and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

"The collaboration on Mesquite Solar 3 is a triumph of innovative problem solving, and will help to increase the [Department of the Navy’s] energy security by diversifying our power portfolio and improving energy efficiency," Mabus said during the ceremony. "This agreement is also projected to save the DON at least $90 million over the life of the project."

Along with cost stability and a measure of energy independence, the facility will help the Navy stay on course in supporting the Defense Department’s overall goal of getting 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

With the Mesquite project, last month’s groundbreaking on a 17-megawatt project at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and an upcoming groundbreaking on a 42-megawatt project at Kings Bay, Ga., the Navy is on track to have 1.2 gigawatts of solar power (leaving it a mere 0.01 gigawatts shy of powering Doc Brown’s DeLorean).

The installations that will receive solar power from the Mesquite facility include:

  • Naval Bases San Diego, Coronado, Point Loma and Ventura County
  • Naval Support Activity Monterey
  • Naval Weapons Stations Seal Beach, Det Norco and Fallbrook
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
  • Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Palms
  • Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
  • Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow
  • Marine Corps Recruitment Deport San Diego
  • Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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