One of the largest solar projects east of the Mississippi River is officially underway in Northwest Florida.
Executives from Gulf Power and Coronal Energy joined officials from Eglin Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Pensacola for the installation of the first two solar photovoltaic panels on the newest large-scale solar projects in Florida.
The projects at Eglin Air Force Base and NAS Pensacola’s Navy Outlying Landing Field Saufley, along with a third project at NAS Whiting Field’s NOLF Holley, comprise the Gulf Coast Solar Center Portfolio, according to Gulf Power officials.
When complete, the combined facilities will be among the state’s largest solar projects with approximately 1.5 million solar panels capable of generating up to 120 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power approximately 18,000 homes annually.
“These projects exemplify our commitment to leveraging strong partnerships and innovative solutions to develop large-scale solar projects that deliver clean energy to a diverse set of customers,” said Jonathan Jaffrey, chairman and CEO of Coronal Energy™. “The collaborative approach to the development of the Gulf Coast Solar Center Portfolio represents a smarter approach to pursuing solar energy, and may serve as a model for future public/private sector renewable energy initiatives.”
Coronal Energy, powered by Panasonic, is constructing the three facilities on Department of Defense property in Northwest Florida – one at NAS Pensacola’s NOLF Saufley, one on NAS Whiting Field’s NOLF Holley, and one at Eglin Air Force Base. Construction began at all three locations in November 2016 and are expected to become operational during the summer of 2017.
Stan Connally, Gulf Power chairman, president and CEO, pointed out that the solar projects are vital to building a sustainable energy infrastructure while easing the impact on the environment. They also help further diversify the company’s energy portfolio and support the mission to provide safe, affordable and reliable energy to its Northwest Florida customers.
“We’re proud to work with Coronal Energy, powered by Panasonic, the Air Force and the Navy as we work toward meeting critical energy needs as well as the energy needs of the region,” said Connally. “Gulf Power is investing in smart renewables such as these solar projects that make economic sense for our customers as part of a balanced energy mix.”
Jim Doyle, president of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company, added: “Solar is the world’s fastest-growing energy source. With these projects, Gulf Power — in cooperation with the Air Force and the Navy — takes a big step forward adding clean, resilient, domestic renewable energy to its portfolio for the benefit of its customers. They’re showing how going solar translates to smart business and smart government, not just for residents and businesses in Florida but also across the country.”
“We continually seek to balance the military mission with the stewardship of this environmental national treasure and look for innovative ways to excel in both arenas,” said Col. Craig Johnson, 96th Civil Engineer Group commander at Eglin AFB. “This project does that by leasing 240 acres of underused land to Gulf Power and in turn Eglin AFB will receive lease payments we will use to improve the energy resiliency of our installation. At the same time, the project will provide a substantial amount of clean energy back to Eglin and the surrounding community.”
“It’s rewarding to be part of this project, which will provide an opportunity for us to assist local and state partners in understanding the Department of the Navy’s overall strategy and commitment for renewable energy,” said NAS Pensacola Commanding Officer Capt. Christopher Martin.
“It is gratifying to be part of a partnership that truly is beneficial to everyone,” NAS Whiting Field Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Bahlau stated. “This effort will develop cost-effective, renewable sources of energy, which will also enhance the Navy’s energy security. Our team is excited to play a role in this collaborative project.”
Energy produced by the projects will serve Gulf Power customers across Northwest Florida and were unanimously approved by the Florida Public Service Commission in April 2015. Together, these facilities will be among the largest photovoltaic arrays in Florida and have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3.5 million tons over 25 years. Combined they will be one of the largest solar projects east of the Mississippi River.
The solar facilities are estimated to generate the following amounts of energy:
· NAS Pensacola’s NOLF Saufley: approximately 600,000 photovoltaic panels with a capacity of 50 megawatts producing enough energy to power nearly 7,400 Escambia County homes for a year
· NAS Whiting Field’s NOLF Holley: approximately 475,000 photovoltaic panels with a capacity of 40 megawatts producing enough energy to power nearly 6,100 Santa Rosa County homes for a year
· Eglin Air Force Base: approximately 375,000 photovoltaic panels with a capacity of 30 megawatts producing enough energy to power nearly 4,500 Okaloosa County homes for a year