By Ensign Clara Navarro
PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Naval Air Station Pensacola, along with Gulf Power and Coronal Energy, celebrated completion of the largest combined portfolio of solar facilities on Department of Navy property during an Aug. 22 ceremony at Navy Outlying Field Saufley Field.
The 122.2 megawatt (MW) alternate current (AC) Gulf Coast Solar Center spans 940 acres across two Navy sites in Northwest Florida and is part of a three-project portfolio that also includes a field on Eglin Air Force Base.
"We are pleased to know these facilities will help provide clean energy to thousands of homes across Northwest Florida," said NAS Pensacola commanding officer Capt. Christopher Martin.
The project completion was commemorated with a ceremonial switch-flipping at NOLF Saufley Field, home to the largest of the three solar installations.
Along with Martin, presenters and attendees at the ceremony included: Jennifer Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy; Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien, commander, 96th Test Wing; Capt. Todd A. Bahlau, commanding officer, NAS Whiting Field; Col. John Schuliger, commander, 96th Civil Engineer Group; Mayor Pro-Tempore Charlotte McKamy, city of Mary Esther; Ed Feo, president, Coronal Energy; Jamie Evans, managing director, Panasonic Enterprise Solutions; Mike Walters, director project development, Coronal Energy; and Michael Burroughs, vice president, Gulf Power.
Construction of the three facilities - one at NAS Pensacola (NOLF Saufley Field), one at NAS Whiting Field (NOLF Holley Field) and one at Eglin Air Force Base - was approved by the Florida Public Service Commission in April of 2015. Groundbreaking took place in December of that same year.
"Each installation and mission throughout the Southeast is unique and it is imperative for us [the Navy] to have energy security and resilience needed to support the greater Navy mission," Martin said. "There are eight renewable generation projects that DON is supporting in the southeast and today you are seeing the completion of two solar facilities in Northwest Florida totaling 122.2 MW DC at Saufley and Holley."
Gulf Power's third-party solar energy developer, Coronal Development Services, built, owns, operates and maintains the facilities. Gulf Power will acquire all of the energy and associated renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by the projects to serve all of its customers, including the DON.
"Adding clean, affordable energy to our energy grid through the innovative public-private partnership that enabled the completion of all three of the portfolio's solar facilities is a proud accomplishment for Gulf Power, and a significant milestone for the local economy, our customers and the environment," Stan Connally, Gulf Power Chairman, President and CEO, said.
NOLF Saufley Field holds nearly 600,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) modules on 366 acres, while NOLF Holley comprises a 336.4-acre, 40 MW AC facility, and Eglin Air Force Base houses a 240-acre, 30 MW AC set-up. Totaling around 1.5 million solar panels, the portfolio is able to generate enough energy to power more than 18,000 homes in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties annually. They are the largest photovoltaic arrays in Florida and have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 43.5 million tons over 25 years.
"The partnerships that we enjoy with the community here in Northwest Florida are incredibly gratifying," said NAS Whiting Field Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Bahlau. "Today we get to observe the culmination of two years' worth of teamwork and dedication to a project that has benefited the Navy and Air Force teams, the community, as well as the industries involved. NAS Whiting Field is committed to being a good neighbor to our communities, and I am thrilled to be a part of an endeavor that helps our local residents secure a new source of renewable energy."
The Holley and Saufley projects together fulfill 12 percent of the Navy's goal of obtaining 1 gigawatt (GW) alternative energy before the end of the year. These initiatives also support the Department of Defense's commitment to renewable energy and pursuit of energy security.