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Solar farm at NAWS China Lake. Photo courtesy of SunPower

Renewable Energy: Powering the Future

By Hon. Dennis McGinn
Assistant Secretary of the Navy – Energy, Installations & Environment

Energy is at the core of every one of our missions. You may not think about where your energy comes from, but make no mistake—its source matters.  Fossil fuels, which have been the primary source of energy in the past, are finite and an overreliance on them puts our Nation and Navy at risk. In 2013, the Navy spent between $4 and $5 billion on the roughly 1.3 billion gallons of fuel it needed for operations. Fuel price swings could raise that cost by as much as $1 billion in any given year, and force the Department of the Navy (DON) to cut back in other critical areas to pay the bill. Therefore, to ensure the Navy has reliable, assured and sufficient access to energy, also known as energy security, the Navy is looking for alternatives that allow our Sailors and Marines to do their jobs better, more safely and more efficiently. And what better alternative than power that can be built on or near our bases and never run out?

With this in mind, in May 2014 Secretary Mabus challenged the shore leadership to bring one gigawatt of renewable energy into procurement by the end of 2015, and so the Renewable Energy Program Office (REPO) was born with a laser-focus to identify cost-effective renewable energy projects for DON installations. Building renewable energy power facilities will allow the DON to achieve energy security and increase operational capability.

Solar farm at NAWS China Lake. Photo courtesy of SunPower
Solar farm at NAWS China Lake. Photo courtesy of SunPower

 

So what, you may ask, is a gigawatt? It is roughly what would be required to power the city of Orlando, Florida or about 250,000 homes. It is certainly a challenge for the DON to meet the one gigawatt goal, but we are well on our way.

In the last year alone, DON issued four requests for proposals for up to 460 megawatts of renewable energy from projects that could power 14 bases in California, 7 bases in the Mid-Atlantic, 3 bases in the Washington-DC area, and 3 bases in Texas. We executed a real estate agreement with Duke Energy to build 17 megawatts of solar power at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and have worked with housing partners at our San Diego-area bases to host up to 33 megawatts of rooftop solar on Navy and Marine Corps housing.

To meet SECNAV’s goal and ultimately to increase energy security, the DON has created three development models. The first allows the DON to contract for energy generation location off-base by a third party. The second model is where a renewable energy asset, such as solar photovoltaic (PV), is built on the base by a third party, and the energy produced is consumed by the surrounding community. The final model consists of a renewable energy project built on-base, to power operations on-base.

In July 2014 Secretary Mabus said, “Our ability to innovate and embrace new technologies and new concepts will help ensure that the Navy and the Marine Corps can continue to protect the American people and do the work of our nation around the world.” REPO is here to innovate and improve the way the Navy goes about getting its energy. Without energy, there is no mission and without innovation there is no guaranteed access to energy. Power and where we get it from, matters.

Stay tuned for more information about the DON creating new renewable energy projects using wind and solar energy, to power our bases and operations. Like the communities we live in, we are doing our part to get smart on energy; improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of alternative energy promotes more secure and more resilient installations.

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