Large Lemoore Solar Project Cleared for Takeoff

The Department of the Navy and Recurrent Energy have signed a lease agreement to build a 167-megawatt solar facility on roughly 930 acres of land at Naval Air Station Lemoore in Kings County.

Construction is expected to start next year and be completed by 2019.

In the planning for several years, this solar facility will be the largest on Department of Defense land, with the ability to power more than 23,000 homes — more than half of the number of houses in Kings County.

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.

Officials decided last year the environmental impact of the proposed project was negligible, so now they could move forward with ongoing negotiations with several private solar firms.

The Navy says this project will not have a significant effect on the environment as determined by the Finding of No Significant Impact and will enable the Navy to meet critical renewable energy and security goals. The U.S. Navy has a goal to develop 1 gigawatt of renewable energy by 2020.

The Navy would receive compensation for the 37-year lease, but would not directly receive the power generated by the solar system. Recurrent would sell the generated power to regional customers, typically a municipality or utility. Recurrent would be responsible for all maintenance and service of the system; no federal tax dollars would be used for maintenance/service.

The agreement would remove agricultural land (the majority of which is irrigated) from production. The development would have substantially lower water demands than active agriculture, and thus NAS Lemoore would need less water overall to irrigate. This trend of replacing productive agricultural land with solar projects is echoed by eight additional large-scale solar projects in the vicinity of NAS Lemoore.

The upshot is the cumulative result of these projects would be a regional net decrease in demand for water for irrigation. This would, in turn, reduce regional groundwater withdrawal and slow the regional rate of subsidence, according to the environmental document. Today, more than two-thirds of the land in NAS Lemoore is utilized for agricultural purposes.

Recurrent Energy is a U.S. subsidiary of Canadian Solar Inc., with more than 4 gigawatts of solar projects in development in North America. The company just announced completion of the nearby 200 megawatt Tranquillity Solar Project in Fresno County.

In addition, Recurrent has eight utility-sized solar projects either built or under development in Kings County — fast becoming the ‘King of all counties’  in California solar development.

In a news release from the California Energy Commission, an agreement between the state and the US Navy will bring 205 electric vehicles to Navy bases in the state, including Lemoore.

 Large Lemoore Solar Project Cleared for Takeoff, by John Lindt, The Business Journal, November 9, 2016.
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