U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse today announced that the U.S. Navy, which has been exploring the feasibility of installing a new solar energy farm at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport, has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP). The Navy has made available up to 83 non-contiguous acres for lease at NAVSTA Newport and this RFP seeks bids for the construction and operation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) facility that has the potential to add an estimated 15 megawatts (MWs) of renewable energy in Rhode Island. This effort will also help NAVSTA Newport meet federal policies, goals, and standards for renewable energy.
The Senators applaud this project for improving energy infrastructure resiliency in the state, as the energy generated from this solar farm will be going directly to the main external grid for consumption by consumers. The project would also improve energy reliability for NAVSTA Newport in that the base could access the PV power when the grid goes down. The lessee will plan, finance, construct, provide all necessary equipment for, operate, and maintain a generation system for the full term of the lease and receive market fees from end users.
The solar panels would be installed on brownfield sites that were previously used as a landfill and fuel tank farms, which were once used to fuel the ships berthed at Newport until the mid-1970s. The fuel tank farms still house underground storage tanks that were once used to hold various fuels used by the Navy, but are no longer in use.
An 8-acre portion of land along the shore of Narragansett Bay, known as McAllister Point Landfill, which previously accepted industrial wastes, could be used to develop approximately 2.8 MW solar PV facility. Special ballasted construction would be used to ensure that the landfill cover is not penetrated. A 40-acre site known as Tank Farm 4 would be developed for an approximately 8 MW solar PV facility, while a 35-acre parcel known as Tank Farm 5 would be developed for an approximately 7 MW solar PV facility.
“This is a real opportunity to take a blighted, underutilized area and turn it into a tremendous solar resource that reduces pollution while generating reliable, renewable power for the base and the community. This solar development has the potential to help the Navy enhance energy security here at Newport and achieve long-term energy savings,” said Reed, the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee. “Our energy, economy, and security are all bound together and upgrading our energy infrastructure and investing in clean, renewable energy can have a positive impact on all these areas. This project should put Rhode Islanders to work and provide increased energy resiliency for Naval Station Newport and consumers as well.”
“It’s exciting that a site where we used to bury old fuels could soon be used to generate clean solar energy,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “Developing this renewable energy capacity at Naval Station Newport will bring cleaner power to Rhode Island customers and allow the base new flexibility to draw energy in times of need. Creative solutions like this are what Rhode Island needs to address climate change and our growing energy demands.”
Solar PV technology uses solar cells to convert energy from solar radiation into electricity. The ground-mounted facility to be constructed at these sites would include solar PV panels assembled in arrays, as well as electrical equipment (such as inverters, facility components, and electrical lines and wiring) to complete the generation of electricity and connect the solar PV facility to existing electrical infrastructure.
The deadline for proposals to be submitted by interested companies is January 22, and the Navy plans to make an award by March 31. Once the proposals are submitted, they will go through a competitive review process, in which a selection committee will decide which company will be awarded the contract.
The project calls for a 26-year lease, with one year of construction and 25 years of operation.
Previously, the Navy had been studying a proposal to install several large wind turbines at NAVSTA Newport capable of generating 9 MWs of energy, but dropped those plans in 2014 and studied the installation of solar panels, which could potentially generate more megawatts of energy.
Naval Station Newport is home to 50 Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard and NOAA commands with over 12,000 military and civilian personnel working and training on the station daily. NAVSTA Newport is the Navy’s Center of Excellence for Officer and Senior Enlisted Education and Training and home to such prestigious commands as the Naval War College; Naval Undersea Warfare Center; Naval Justice School; Officer Training Command Newport, and the Senior Enlisted Academy.