Military Matters: Solar comes to NAS Meridian

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - There's a new push at Meridian Naval Air Station to use renewable power, including solar energy.

Partners who helped bring the 15,000 solar panels to the base officially "flipped the switch" Tuesday on a new 6 megawatt, 15-thousand panel 38 acre solar farm.

Capt. Brian Horstman, commanding officer of NAS Meridian, showed the operation to the media.

"It gives us a lot of resiliency," said Horstman. "If our primary sources of power go down for whatever reason we've got a reliable clean, backup energy source we can fall back on to continue our mission. And that's what we're really here to do. When we're not using that power we kick it off base to the local grid and share it with our partners out in town and the local community benefits from that as well, stabilizing their electrical structure."

Representatives with solar energy company, Silicon Ranch, East Mississippi Electric Power Association and the Tennessee Valley Authority partnered to get the solar farm up and running.

"it's a huge effort so it's part military, part civilian contractors, part corporation and within just the military itself, we've got naval facilities command that works on this. We've got the repo command that works on this as well as our base," Horstman said. "It's a huge effort to get this done. There's no way any of it could've been done without our corporate partners as well as the Navy."

Vice president for commercial energy solutions at TVA, Doug Perry, says the solar installation will help provide clean, renewable energy to the area.

"This power comes on to the TVA grid so think of the grid like a bathtub," said Perry. "This is a bucket of water poured in the bathtub. We have to work. Make sure it's getting on the grid safely. Doing it in the right way. The interconnections. Working with local EMEPA, who's really the people on the ground working with the base."

Perry says he's proud of the relationship companies have formed with NAS Meridian to make the solar project happen.

"You're helping the environment. That's what creates these good days like this," Perry said. "That's what we're committed to."

The solar panel plant is expected to provide renewable power to TVA and EMEPA customers at low costs.