NAVAL AIR WEAPONS STATION CHINA LAKE, Calif. – City, County and Navy officials joined forces in celebrating the “Flip the Switch” ceremony for the 118-acre photovoltaic plant onboard the Station, bringing the solar power array on line.
“After years of planning and regulatory hurdles, and nine months of construction, we celebrate completion of a facility capable of producing 13.78 megawatts of renewable energy – enough to power 3,500 homes.
This is the first Navy solar power plant to be executed using a Power Purchase Agreement under Title 10 USC 2922a, allowing a defense agency project to be owned and maintained by a third-party investor rather than through Federal budgets and requires no upfront investment from the U.S. Navy. The agreement allows the Navy to secure electricity below the rate available through shorter duration agreements and should save the Navy up to $13 million during the 20-year span.
Keynote speaker Natsuhara emphasized the fact that this milestone was a huge step for China Lake, stating the array would provide up to 30 percent of the Station’s energy needs and up to 70 percent of the summer peak daytime electricity requirements.
Natsuhara noted that while this event is a step forward to reach the goal set by Secretary of the Navy Mabus nearly three years ago – meeting half of the Navy’s energy consumption with alternative sources by 2020 – the Navy still needs an additional 900 to 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy from solar and other sources.
“We continue to make good progress. In 2011, the Department of the Navy tripled the photovoltaic generation from the previous year, going from 5 megawatts to 15 megawatts, and we’re on track to double it again this year,” he said. ‘Our goal is for half our bases to be net zero by 2020. China Lake is already there, but this region (Navy Region Southwest) has so much potential. I envision even more solar energy generation over the years to come and more wind energy where it is mission-compatible.”
Natsuhara continued, “Here at China Lake, you know better than anyone that the Navy leads the surge when it comes to better technology for succeeding in our missions. As we move from a culture of consumption to one focused on conservation – we will continue to partner with the best in the energy business and employ the best technologies available to meet our goals.”