Something Exciting is Happening

Something exciting is happening at one of my favorite travel destinations. Of course, I’m talking about China Lake, California, located in the relatively remote Western Mojave Desert region of the state.

When I was a flight tester for the US Department of Defense based out of Patuxent River, Maryland, I looked forward to trips to the military base at China Lake, and neighboring town of Ridgecrest. The longer the stay, the better.

I was in the minority compared to the rest of my fellow engineer-types. I even went on a few trips on behalf of others, because they didn’t want to go to a place where, after traveling across the US, the final destination was still over a 200-mile drive away, and in the opposite direction of all that most considered fun. Their running joke was, “China Lake may be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s only four hours away from everything!”

My kind of place.

Yesterday, the US Navy announced that construction has officially started on a new 118-acre solar farm at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake. According to the US Navy’s Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installation and Environment, Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, “This is the largest solar project in the Navy”.

What are the numbers? The installation includes a 13.78 megawatt solar photovoltaic power system, consisting of a fully integrated, modular solar block consisting of 31,680 solar panels.

The Navy anticipates getting at least 30% of China Lake’s power from the solar farm integration. Over the 20-year life of the purchase agreement, the Navy will be allowed to buy electricity below the retail rate, starting at the end of 2012. The solar farm is estimated to reduce energy costs by $13 million for the Navy over the next two decades.

When it’s complete, there will be yet another reason to spend our vacation in the area! Can’t wait to tell my wife. Or maybe I will surprise her…