President-elect Donald Trump is not such a big fan of clean power, but the Pentagon sure is. That’s especially true of the US Navy. The Department of the Navy has been leveraging its history of maritime innovation to make the case for transitioning to biofuel, solar energy, wind energy, energy storage, energy efficiency, and any other technological edge that can support its position as the most powerful fighting force on the seven seas — and make its bases more secure and resilient, too.
That could make things a bit awkward come the day after Inauguration Day in January. A case in point is the gigantic new solar farm planned for Naval Air Station Lemoore in California, home of the Pacific Strike Fighter Wing.
A Gigantic New Solar Farm For The US Navy
The US Navy’s new solar installation was announced a while back, so we have a bit of catching up to do.
At 167 megawatts and 930 acres, this will be the largest single solar facility on Department of Defense property.
The new solar farm will be constructed through a lease deal, so us taxpayers will pay no money up front (group hug!). The electricity goes into the local grid. The solar developer — a company called Recurrent Energy — will sell it to local customers and the income will take care of all maintenance and service for the new solar farm.
But wait, there’s more. The US Navy get something out of this, too. Our friends over at Business Insider list the perks:
Through this agreement, the Navy will receive electrical infrastructure upgrades including on-base, biofuel-capable, back-up generation and other upgrades to support uninterrupted base operations during grid outages in exchange for use of its land.
The US Navy underscored the operational security goals of the new solar facility last year, in an environmental impact statement:
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to increase Navy installation energy security, operational capability, strategic flexibility, and resource availability through the development of renewable energy generating systems.
US Navy Hearts Water Resources
The new project also illustrates how some California communities are coping with the state’s ongoing drought.
NAS Lemoore is located in a farming community that is rapidly depleting its groundwater. Replacing some active farms with clean energy facilities is a water resource strategy that takes irrigated land out of commission.
According to Business Insider, the new solar farm at NAS Lemoore is one of nine such projects in the area.
Tough Decisions Ahead For The New CiC
More to the point, the NAS Lemoore solar farm demonstrates the complex entanglements that US military facilities have with their home states.
Stopping or reversing renewable energy initiatives at those facilities is not a simple matter of pulling the plug.
The NAS Lemoore facility, for example, is just small part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed last month between the California Air Resources Board and the US Navy and Marine Corps in pursuit of a more sustainable energy future.
That means hardening US Navy facilities as well as ensuring reliability in the civilian sector.
Here’s the overview:
The MOU helps implement some of the key recommendations made by the Governor’s Military Council last year. The recommendations aim to enhance the state’s defense and national security mission and its benefits to California’s economy and communities.
The MOU announcement was accompanied by the launch of a new EV lease program by the Navy and Marine Corps, totaling 205 vehicles. That’s the largest single EV integration for any federal agency to date (and hopefully not the last one, either).
In addition to the new NAS Lemoore solar farm, two others are in the works, for Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and Naval Base Ventura County. Both include energy storage.
The Navy already has numerous future energy projects under way in California, including a waterless cleaning system for ballistic gear at Naval Base Hueneme. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has a solar microgrid with energy storage (apparently that’s a demo of cutting edge storage technology).
The military’s clean energy entanglements are not limited to blue states like California.
Military facilities with solar or wind have become the order of the day in Georgia, Texas, Arizona, and elsewhere.
Energy efficiency upgrades are also part of the plan In Oklahoma, for example, Tinker Air Force Base has been promoting its energy efficiency upgrades, including a rooftop solar hot water heating system installed in 2013. The latest round of this initiative has been undertaken through an energy savings plan, which means that US taxpayers are getting it for free.
Whether or not the rug gets pulled out from under those programs is anybody’s guess. If you have one, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Photo (cropped): courtesy of NAS Lemoore via Facebook.