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US Navy's Solar Power Push

The U.S. Navy's Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast - based in Jacksonville, Fla. - is using $69.3 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to install solar energy systems and upgrade a total of 32 buildings at 11 naval installations across Florida, Mississippi and Texas.

Through this project, the buildings are getting solar and roofing upgrades that will save the Navy $871,935 annually. The solar energy systems are expected to generate 9,399 MWh of clean, renewable energy during first full year after construction. The process will involve hundreds workers across the projects.

Navy Project Manager and Electrical Engineer Lynwood Taylor is overseeing the entire process to make sure the Navy spends its money in ways that will progress the military toward its energy goals, create private-sector jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Upgrading Roofs, Integrating Solar

At the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Miss., six buildings are slated to see roof upgrades that include a total of 500 kW of building-integrated photovoltaics using almost $7 million of the $13.8 million awarded for Navy's BIPV upgrades in Mississippi. (Additional funding went to Naval Air Station Meridian, which also recently retrofitted a hangar there.)

One stipulation on the Navy's Recovery Act funding for these projects is that the BIPV must be used in conjunction with roofing improvements at the buildings involved.

"I essentially make sure the Navy's money gets spent the way we told Congress we were going to spend it," Taylor says. "We have to make sure we execute this project on suitable buildings."

To find the buildings best suited for the upgrade, the Navy engaged Atlantic Contingency Constructors, based in Norfolk, Va. This process began last year as the company provided the Navy with recommendations of potential sites after evaluating the buildings. The Navy reviewed the recommendations and generated a final list of the buildings it wanted to include in the project, and ACC began detailed site surveys in January where it conducts structural analyses and estimates costs.

"We're currently reviewing their designs, and Gulfport's buildings should be phased in and begin construction later this fall," Taylor says. Installations in Texas will likely see the first upgrades, expected to begin in early September. All of the projects are expected to be complete by the end of 2011 with ACC managing design firms and contractors at the sites.

Far-reaching Impact

"The real job creation potential is with the construction subcontractors," Skip Dunham, PV project manager for ACC, says. "We're managing the project, but the design firms and solar installers will be the ones getting a large amount of the workload and seeing where the stimulus comes in on this project."

Taylor expects the project to make an impression on people not directly involved with the projects as well.

"I think the long-term impact will be really good," he says. "I came from the private sector, and I know so many times companies will look and say, ‘this is what the military is doing.' We [Navy] try to be on the leading edge of technology and hope that others follow suit with what we're doing — opening a doorway to move renewable energy technologies forward."

This article was reprinted with permission from its original publisher, Energy Empowers: a U.S. Department of Energy blog "capturing the hearts and minds of the people building America's clean energy economy."  The mission of Energy Empowers is to put names and faces to the people who work on energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors and renewable projects, including solar, wind, water, biomass, geothermal, hydrogen and fuel cells, all of whom have received support by the DOE.

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