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Navy to host largest solar energy project in Va.

Wednesday - 12/5/2012, 12:26pm  ET

NORFOLK, Va. - The Navy has finished construction on the largest solar energy project in Virginia.

The Virginian-Pilot reports ( http://bit.ly/SLgCqR) the 10-acre solar farm just outside of Naval Station Norfolk contains more than 8,600 panels, which are bolted onto steel stilts in a marshy field called Monkey Bottom.

Those panels can generate up to 2.1 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power about 200 homes, said Michelle Perry, project manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

That's about 2 percent of the electricity required to run Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base.

Ken Jurman, who tracks such facilities for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, said the Monkey Bottom project is "by far" the largest solar energy project in the state.

Jurman said the closest competitors are at an Ikea department store in Northern Virginia and at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, where the school installed solar panels on a parking garage and on a main campus building. He said those projects are about one fourth of the size of the Navy's.

Although construction was completed in November, the photovoltaic panels are not yet connected to the electricity grid that feeds the base. Perry said that connection is expected by Christmas.

The $21 million project was part of President Barack Obama's stimulus package. Obama and former President George W. Bush both signed executive orders for the Department of Defense to pursue alternative energy. One mandate calls for each base to be using renewable sources for 50 percent of its power by 2020.

The solar project will help Naval Station Norfolk meet this requirement, said Paula Teague, an energy management specialist with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)