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SunPower completes largest PV system in the US Navy

Oct. 22, 2012 - Julia Chan-

The 13.78MW PV system is located at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California, US. Image: Fotopedia.

    US PV manufacturer SunPower Corporation has announced the completion of a 13.78MW solar power system at the US Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake (NAWS China Lake) in California. The PV system is hailed as the largest in the US Navy.

    SunPower installed its SunPower Oasis Power Plant product, a fully integrated, modular solar power block which is engineered to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy utility-scale solar projects while optimizing land use. Each power block integrates the SunPower T0 Tracker with SunPower's PV modules, pre-manufactured system cabling, the Oasis smart inverter and the Oasis operating system.

    An affiliate of MetLife Inc purchased the SunPower’s PV system while NAWS China Lake is hosting the system. NAWS China Lake is buying electricity generated from the system at prices currently below the retail utility rate, which provides the Navy with a long-term hedge against rising power prices and required no initial capital investment.

    The PV system is expected to generate around 30% of NAWS China Lake’s annual energy needs which, the company says, will enable the site to save an estimated US$13 million over the next 20 years.

    The PV system represents the first federal agency project to be financed through a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Under this agreement, the project requires no upfront capital or maintenance obligations from the Navy. It also matches conventional project financing terms for solar power facilities and allows the Navy to secure electricity at up to 30% below the rate available through shorter duration 10-year PPAs.

    Howard Wenger, president, regions, of SunPower, said: "SunPower congratulates the Navy for its forward-thinking commitment to solar as a reliable resource that strengthens this country's energy independence and security. This 20-year PPA will significantly lower long-term electricity costs at China Lake, and can be used as a template for additional large-scale federal solar projects."

    "With 52MW installed, SunPower has more than a decade of experience working with the federal government. We are pleased to be the leading solar provider to the US government, delivering cost-effective solar solutions that generate the highest value returns over the long term."

    To date, SunPower has installed over 50MW of solar power systems at government facilities while its systems for the US Navy and US Air Force alone provide enough electricity to power around 9,000 homes.