Gulf Power is partnering with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force to build solar energy farms at three different facilities across Northwest Florida. Today, the utility submitted the renewable projects to the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) for approval. The projects could be in service as early as December 2016.
“This is an important collaboration between Gulf Power, the Navy and the Air Force,” said Stan Connally, Gulf Power president and CEO. “As military installations seek solutions to promote renewable energy generation, we have worked alongside our military customers to help provide cost-effective solutions — and all our customers will reap the benefit.”
This is Gulf Power’s second alternative energy project since launching the 3.2-megawatt Perdido Landfill Gas-to-Energy facility in 2010. Together, these new solar facilities, which will be developed by HelioSage Energy, could produce enough energy to power approximately 18,000 homes for one year.
“We’re excited to be able to add solar energy to our generation mix,” Connally said. “With some careful planning, we’ve been able to make sure these projects are cost-effective for our customers.”
Once approved by the FPSC, the solar energy farms will be constructed at Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach (30 megawatts), Holley Field in Navarre (40 megawatts) and Saufley Field in Pensacola (50 megawatts). Gulf Power will serve customers across Northwest Florida with power from these renewable energy-generating facilities.
Capt. Keith Hoskins, commanding officer of NAS Pensacola, said the project is part of the Secretary of the Navy’s Strategy for Renewable Energy and provides an opportunity to assist local and state industry partners in understanding the Department of the Navy’s overall strategy and commitment to renewable energy.
“This project will provide a potential benefit to the U.S. Navy in providing energy security during outages to allow seamless operation of our critical assets,” Hoskins said.
NAS Whiting Field’s commanding officer Capt. Todd A. Bahlau addressed the benefits of the solar projects.
“NAS Whiting Field is excited to participate in the Secretary of the Navy’s plan to invest in renewable energy to diversify the Navy’s energy sources,” Bahlau said. “This is a win-win for everyone involved and another example of the tremendous partnerships between the military and the leaders of Northwest Florida.”
The Air Force, also striving to meet new federal renewable energy and energy conservation goals, is excited to get the project started.
“This project helps meet the DoD goal of 25 percent renewables by 2025 and the Air Force’s energy goal of 1 gigawatt of on-site capacity by 2016,” said Brig. Gen. David Harris, 96th Test Wing commander.
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s strategic asset utilization division chief Dave Funk highlighted how the solar facilities will not only benefit the community, but will make good use of Air Force property.
“This project exemplifies how a regional utility provider like Gulf Power can effectively partner with the Air Force to achieve common renewable energy and asset-optimization objectives,” Funk said. “The proposed agreement is expected to optimize the value of 240 acres of non-excess Air Force real estate through the development and operation of a ground-mounted solar photovoltaic facility, which will directly benefit Gulf Power, Eglin Air Force Base, and the local community.”
As an intermittent energy resource, the solar farms will not replace Gulf Power’s generation plants, but will have the capability to provide energy that will diversify the power supply and provide a cost-effective alternative during peak energy usage.
Pending FPSC approval, HelioSage is scheduled to begin construction in February 2016.
“HelioSage is excited to partner with Gulf Power on these landmark projects which will bring renewable energy to Northwest Florida,” said Chris Quarterman, vice president of Strategy for HelioSage Energy. “These projects serve as another example that large-scale solar has become a cost-effective technology. We congratulate Gulf Power and the Department of Defense for their leadership and vision, and look forward to working together on this effort.”