Navy Uses Super ESPC to Make Photovoltaic Energy Pay

April 30, 2003

Photo of the 750-kilowatt solar electric carport at Coronado Naval Base.

The 750-kilowatt solar electric carport generates power for the Naval Base Coronado while providing more than 400 covered parking spaces for Navy personnel.

Already a national leader in energy conservation, the Navy Region Southwest (NRSW) has recently become the proud owner of one of the largest Federal photovoltaic (PV) systems in the nation, demonstrating its commitment to using renewable energy technologies. The 750-kilowatt PV system installed at Naval Base Coronado makes the Navy one of the largest public-sector generators of clean renewable energy in California. The project is also a landmark for DOE's Super Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) Program, as one of the largest renewable energy projects (other than geothermal heat pumps) financed to date under a Super ESPC.

With two contiguous solar arrays consisting of more than 3,000 solar panels and covering approximately 80,000 square feet, the "carport" PV system not only generates power for the base but also provides shade and protection for more than 400 vehicles stored in long-term parking for Navy personnel aboard deployed ships. "Using clean generation is very consistent with our base's mission of leveraging superior operational expertise and technologies," said Commander Pat Rios, Naval Base Coronado Public Works Officer.

The Naval Base Coronado PV energy project was developed by the NRSW Energy Team, which includes representatives of Navy Public Works Center, San Diego; Southwest Division of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NFESC); Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center; Engineering Field Division Southwest; and Tetra Tech EM Inc. The project was awarded to NORESCO, through FEMP's Western Regional Super ESPC. The PV system was designed and installed by PowerLight Corporation, a leading manufacturer of grid-connected solar electric systems.

Utility- and state-incentive funds and the Department of Defense's commitment to green power together resulted in a simple payback of only 5.8 years for the bundle of energy conservation measures for the base (including rebates and pre-performance payments) and a financed contract term of 10 years for the project. Another important factor in the project's success was the teamwork of NRSW, NFESC, and NORESCO and their mutual determination to deliver technically sound projects with good economics. For example, two large compressor projects brought excellent savings to the bundle of energy conservation measures. The Navy's investment of $15.5 million for the PV project and five other measures will yield life-cycle cost savings of $11.7 million after reimbursing the contractor's investment. The project's energy savings will total about 17 billion Btu per year. The PV project on its own had a capital cost of $7.7 million, with the Navy's capital contribution totaling $2.2 million and third-party rebates totaling $3.6 million. $1.8 million of the cost was part of a larger special appropriation supporting the President's demand reduction program in the West. "Solar power proved to be the ideal energy solution for Naval Base Coronado," noted Lieutenant Commander Wade Wilhelm, Navy Region Southwest Utilities Program Manager.

The solar electric system will provide 3 percent of Naval Base Coronado's peak summer electricity load and will save more than $228,000 in annual operating costs beginning the first year. The system will also cut expensive electricity purchases from the utility grid during peak energy demand periods and provide the base with reliable, high-quality power with minimal environmental impact. Reducing peak load also helps the utility system avoid system overload and rolling blackouts. Producing enough electricity during the day to power more than 935 homes, the system's peak DC capacity is 924 kilowatts with 750 kilowatts of expected average AC output. Total projected system electrical output is 1,244,000 kilowatthours per year.

By replacing fossil-fuel-generated electricity with solar power, Naval Base Coronado will spare the environment from thousands of tons of harmful emissions annually. Over the 25-year lifetime of the PV system, the solar-generated electricity will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 11,660 pounds, sulfur dioxide by 10,480 pounds, and carbon dioxide by 7,430 tons–emissions reductions equivalent to removing 1,480 cars from California's roadways.

For more information, please contact Mike Holda, FEMP Project Facilitator, at 209-835-8150 or; Michael Beccaria of NORESCO at 203-335-0266 or; or Wade Wilhelm, Navy Project Manager, at 619-556-7013 or