The U.S. Navy has commissioned a 1.3-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) system at its Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) complex in San Diego. The system features 5,376 SolarWorld PV panels, and is the Navy’s largest rooftop solar array. The SPAWAR facility is headquarters for the Navy’s high-tech military command, communications and surveillance activities. The installation, which was designed and constructed in 2011 by Stronghold Engineering, will now feed power into the San Diego grid.

SolarWorld has made headlines recently as the face of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), which is embroiled in a trade dispute against Chinese solar panel manufacturers.  The company manufactures its crystalline silicon PV modules at its factory in Hillsboro, Ore., a fact which has helped it win contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

image via SolarWorld

According to SolarWorld, the company and its predecessors have been supplying solar panels to the military for more than 30 years to power tens of thousands of navigational buoys on intercoastal waterways and along both coasts. More recently, SolarWorld panels have powered installations at U.S. military bases at home and overseas, including the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty Nine Palms, Calif., Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., and Apra Harbor Naval Base in Guam.

“For many years, the Department of Defense has been on the leading edge of the federal government’s efforts to tap solar technology to reduce energy consumption, promote sustainability and lower the cost of doing business,” said Kevin Kilkelly, president of SolarWorld Americas. “By selecting high-quality American manufacturers and installers to supply, design and construct DOD solar projects, the U.S. military is making even greater strides to increase its sustainable energy independence.”

The SPAWAR facility, which is a prominent building bounded by Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway in San Diego’s Old Town district, serves as a very visible reminder of the Navy’s dedication to renewable energy—especially solar power. The Navy continues to push ahead with more high-profile solar projects. SunPower recently broke ground on a 13.78-megawatt PV system at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake in California. This system, the Navy’s largest yet, could be a bellwether for the direction the Navy would like to take installing solar power at its California bases.

The trend is consistent with the DOD’s recent study proposing the development of solar power plants over at least 50,000 acres of land at four Southern California military bases. The study found that the land could support up to 7,000 MW of solar power capacity, worth about $100 million annually in rental fees and energy savings.