This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 07, 2012

Navy's China Lake Solar Plant Begins Operations

SunPower Corp. on October 19 announced the completion of the U.S. Navy's largest solar system, a 13.78-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) power system at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California. The power plant is the first federal agency project to be financed through a 20-year term solar power purchase agreement. The plant, designed and operated by SunPower Corp., is generating the equivalent of more than 30% of China Lake's annual energy load, helping to reduce costs by an estimated $13 million over the next 20 years.

The 20-year power purchase agreement requires no upfront capital or maintenance obligations from the Navy, matches conventional project financing terms for solar power facilities, and allows the Navy to secure electricity at up to 30% below the rate available through shorter duration 10-year power purchase agreements.

SunPower has installed more than 50 megawatts (MW) of solar power systems at government facilities to date. The systems the company has delivered to the Navy and U.S. Air Force alone generate enough electricity to power about 9,000 homes. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the Navy and Air Force systems will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by almost 732,000 tons over the next 20 years. See the SunPower press release.

China Lake also has four geothermal power plants that produce up to 270 MW of electricity, or enough electricity for approximiately 378,000 households. The site has been in continuous operation since 1987, and was the Navy's first site to tap thermal energy. See the China Lake Natural Resources webpage.