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Navy powers up with renewables solar PV and bioenergy

A 13.78-megawatt solar photovoltaic system built by SunPower Corporation has been completed at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California.

SunPower designed and built the system which was bought by an affiliate of MetLife, Inc. SunPower will continue to operate and maintain the system.

The Navy, which has set an energy security goal to increase the alternative energy they use for their shore-based energy requirement to 50 percent by 2020, will buy the electricity produced at prices currently below the retail utility rate. This is as part of a 20-year solar power purchase agreement, and the facility is the first federal agency project to be so financed.

The PPA requires no upfront capital or maintenance obligations from the Navy but allows them to secure power at up to 30 percent below the rate available through shorter duration 10-year PPA’s.

Energy savings from the project will reportedly be at around $13 million over the next 20 years.

The Navy is seeking to reduce their consumption of energy and its reliance on foreign sources of oil by significantly increasing its use of alternative energy.

Aside from increasing the portion of renewables that they use in their facilities, it is also seeking to use more alternative fuels. By 2015, the Navy intends to reduce petroleum use in their commercial vehicle fleet by 50 percent, while building the “Great Green Fleet” – powered by biofuel or nuclear power – by 2016.

To this extent, they are partnering with commercial producers of alternative fuels, most recently with Biodico, a privately held company that builds, owns and operates sustainable biorefineries.

Biodico and the Navy have been working together since May 2002 to privately fund sustainable biorefineries in facilities all over the world.

Under the terms of the new contract, the two will work on a range of advanced biofuel and bioenergy technologies such as transesterification, gasification, gas to liquids, hydrogenation, anaerobic digestion and catalysis.

As part of the agreement, they are building a biorefinery at the Naval Base Ventura County that will produce biofuel and bioenergy. The facility is privately funded with support from grants from the California Energy Commission. – EcoSeed Staff

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