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Solar power breaking new ground in South Mississippi

Assistant Secretary of the Navy, other officials speak at Gulfport solar farm groundbreaking

A 23-acre solar farm is coming to the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, and a groundbreaking Wednesday brought out many military and state officials, including Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environmen
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A 23-acre solar farm is coming to the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, and a groundbreaking Wednesday brought out many military and state officials, including Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environmen

GULFPORT -- A 23-acre solar farm is coming to the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, and a groundbreaking Wednesday brought out many military and state officials, including Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Dennis V. McGinn.

The ceremony marked the start of the construction for the utility scale solar facility capable of producing four megawatts (MW) of direct current, or three MW of alternating current power. The facility will enable the Navy to meet critical energy and security goals.

The ceremony featured remarks by McGinn; Capt. Cheryl M. Hansen, commanding officer of NCBC; Anthony Wilson, president and CEO of Mississippi Power; and Commissioner Sam Britton, Mississippi Public Service Commission.

McGinn said he is very proud of working with Mississippi Power and the PSC commissioners.

"[The Navy] established the renewable energy program office about a year and a half ago to get with the industry and state commissions to deploy more than 1 gigawatt of renewable energy across our department of the Navy Installations and the Marine Corps," McGinn said.

Since 2003, NCBC Gulfport has reduced its energy footprint by 37 percent. Hansen said the original goal was to reduce energy consumption by 2 percent every year since 2005 and they are well ahead of that.

"We are pleased that Congress values new forms of energy that provide effectively free energy from the sun, after the project is completed, for many decades," McGinn said.

PSC Chairman Brandon Presley said this is a major step forward for renewable energy in Mississippi.

"We need to be capturing as much [sunlight] as we can to power not only homes and businesses, but also military installations like the Seabee Base and make sure that we are making America more energy secure," he said.

Wilson said this is fantastic for consumers.

"What we announced today is the beginnings of one of three projects the Commission recently approved that are considered utility scale projects; the economy is the scale," Wilson said. "[If] you are able to build solar at a competitive price that allows us to get into the renewable energy space in an affordable way that is good for our customers and does not put upward pressure on their rates at all."

The developers of the three projects will finance each installation, with Mississippi Power receiving all of the energy and associated renewable energy credits. The energy and RECs may be used to serve customers with renewable energy, for future renewable energy programs or to sell at wholesale to third parties. The power will be purchased through long-term power purchase agreements with the developers.

The solar facilities will not replace Mississippi Power's generating plants, but will have the capability to provide energy that will help diversify the company's generation portfolio and help keep rates affordable for customers.

The federal tax credit for solar is currently at 30 percent, but it is decreasing 10 percent by the end of next year.

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