By Hon. Dennis V. McGinn
Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment)
The Department of Defense (DoD) uses a lot of energy – approximately $18.2 billion worth per year – which makes sense when considering that it’s key to every global mission. When we think of energy in the DoD, we often think of the operational side, but our installations are also crucial military readiness platforms that require energy; facility energy accounts for approximately 30 percent of the DoD’s total energy consumption and costs $4.2 billion annually. Of course, using existing energy wisely is important to the greater mission, but innovative enhancements such as microgrid capabilities and infrastructure upgrades are equally important to energy security and warfighting.
Together, the Departments of Navy and Air Force account for almost 60 percent of total facility energy consumption for the DoD, making it even more important that they develop robust and reliable energy options. With this in mind, they are both collaborating with industry to develop innovative energy generation solutions. The Departments are currently working with Gulf Power to build three solar facilities with estimated capacities of 65 megawatts (MW) of direct current (DC) or 50 MW of alternating current (AC) power at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, 52 MW DC or 40 MW AC at NAS Whiting Field and 40 MW DC or 30 MW AC at Eglin Air Force Base. NAS Pensacola will host a joint groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 16 between the Departments of the Navy and the Air Force to commemorate those solar facility projects.
Here are a few reasons why these projects are so significant:
These Projects are Literally a Big Deal.
Imagine a sea of approximately 1.5 million solar panels spanning some 830 acres, as far as the eye can see. This is what the three projects would look like together when completed on NAS Pensacola’s Navy Outlying Landing Field (NOLF) Saufley, NAS Whiting Field’s NOLF Holley and Eglin Air Force Base. These facilities could produce an estimated 157 MW of DC solar power, capable of powering about 18,000 homes on a sunny day. These projects are not only figuratively a big deal, but literally!
United We Stand, Renewable Energy for All.
The DoD stands united in its pledge to diversify and secure energy generation. For example, each Service has a Presidential goal to deploy one gigawatt of renewable energy generation by 2025. These solar projects prove that both the Departments of the Navy and Air Force are committed to achieving the energy secure future that the Presidential goal envisions. To demonstrate the Department-wide commitment to renewables, NAS Pensacola will host a Joint Services groundbreaking ceremony on Dec. 16 for the Departments of the Navy and Air Force. The three projects will benefit the DoD, Gulf Power and the local community by increasing grid resiliency and local economic development.
Public-Private Partnerships Are Paving the Road To The Gigawatt.
These solar project agreements represent an excellent opportunity for the DoD to leverage the private sector’s capabilities to execute mutually beneficial projects.
Gulf Power’s third-party developer Coronal Development Services will build, own, operate and maintain the solar facilities, which will produce power for all Gulf Power customers. Gulf Power will then acquire the energy and associated renewable energy credits generated.
A win-win for all parties, Gulf Power achieves power portfolio diversification and use of DoD land in exchange for in-kind consideration in the form of infrastructure upgrades to enhance energy security at the hosting installations. Due to its success, this business model is being employed across numerous DoD installations. By leasing non-excess underutilized land, the DoD can capitalize on opportunities for responsible development that also benefits the private sector. Collaboration with the private sector is truly a cornerstone of the DoD’s ability to procure renewables and explore alternative energy solutions in the future.
Building on Installations that help us Soar.
NAS Pensacola, the Navy’s first and oldest Naval Air Station is known as the Cradle of Naval Aviation and is home to the world-renowned Blue Angels. It is one of the largest training operations in the Navy with nearly 60,000 students graduating from programs annually. No stranger to success, NAS Pensacola recently won the Commander in Chief’s Installation Excellence Award and the FY 2015 Secretary of the Navy Energy and Water Management Award.
NAS Whiting Field is the busiest Naval Air Station in the world, routinely executing over one million flight operations per year and accounting for 15 percent of all U.S. Navy hours flown worldwide. More than 1,300 Service personnel complete their essential flight training here yearly, accounting for 67 percent of primary flight training and 100 percent of initial helicopter training for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. NAS Whiting Field was recently named the best small shore installation in the Navy for the second year in a row.
Eglin Air Force Base is the largest base in the Department of the Air Force and home of the 96th Test Wing, the test and evaluation center for air-delivered weapons, navigation and guidance systems, command and control systems, and Special Operations Command systems. The installation has five enhanced-use lease projects on the installation including: the Emerald Breeze Hotel, the MidBay Bridge, the Water Reclamation Facility, the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, and the photovoltaic solar array. In 2015, Eglin received the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy and Water Management Project Award for its benchmarked energy-savings programs.
Building reliable, renewable energy on these installations improves grid resiliency for the communities where our Sailors and aviators live as well as the installations with in-kind energy infrastructure upgrades that will help ensure continuity for important testing, training and national defense missions.
Good Energy Is Contagious.
With 1.2 gigawatts worth of projects in the pipeline, the Department of the Navy is poised to meet the one gigawatt goal and execute more projects in rapid succession by employing private-public partnerships. Across the service, the Air Force has 293 renewable energy projects on 97 sites, either installed, in operation, or under construction with 102 MWs of capacity. That is a 53-percent increase in on-base renewable energy production from 2013 to 2014.
These projects will act as a template and expand to other parts of the country, even overseas. For example, the DoD is currently exploring collaborations with other federal agencies in Europe to procure renewable energy for local installations and their communities. Good energy is contagious and if these projects are any indication, it’s catching on throughout the Department of Defense.