REC Solar, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, is constructing a 20-megawatt solar facility at Pearl Harbor, a U.S. Navy base, in Hawaii. The West Loch solar project will be owned and operated by the Hawaiian Electric Company and will become the cheapest renewable energy per kilowatt-hour in the state. It shows that the US military is becoming confident in alternatives to fossil fuel.
Earlier this week, the Navy and Hawaiian Electric hosted a ceremony at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, West Loch Annex. It’ll hold 80,760 panels and spread across 102 acres of land. With a life expectancy of 25 years, the farm will save customers $109 million and will reduce the need of 76,000 barrels of oil each year.
Duke Energy acquired REC Solar, a California-based solar electric manufacturer that’s building the new facility, last December. They had a majority stake in the company since 2015 and the full acquisition was only a matter of time. It’s a move that provides more solar options and better prices for Duke Energy’s customers.
While based in California, they’ve been the biggest commercial solar provider in Hawaii. Last year, they built a utility-scale solar farm for the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative. It’s currently the biggest solar facility in the state with a capacity of 12 megawatts, producing five percent of the island’s energy needs. That will soon be trumped by the Navy’s upcoming solar farm.
“REC Solar’s proven track record in Hawai’i and elsewhere and their ability to help us provide value to our customers is why we chose to work together,” Ron Cox, Hawaiian Electric’s SVP of operations, said in a press release. “This project will help our state move closer to achieving its renewable energy goals and we appreciate our collaboration with a reliable partner like REC Solar.”
This will be Hawaiian Electric’s first solar project they’ve owned and operated. The state is looking to be fully run on renewable energy by 2045, and the utility has been given the green light on 400 megawatts worth of utility-scale renewable sources in the next three years. It’s expected that a similar amount of rooftop solar power will be added in the same time frame.
Renewable energy sources are growing among the US Armed Forces. Overall, renewable projects tripled between 2011 and 2015 while oil consumption decreased by 20 percent from 2007 to 2015. The Navy will be the most aggressive adopter with goals of running on 50 percent renewables by 2020.
Most of the armed forces will be concentrating renewable energy on their operations and practical uses, not so much on military equipment. “The practical application and efficiency of renewable energy in the combat zone and in disaster relief efforts are paramount,” James Goudreau, a retired US Navy Captain, told Energy Digital.