Congress votes to increase use of solar power in federal facilities

House lawmakers last week approved legislation that would increase the use of solar energy in federal buildings.

An amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2003 (H.R. 6) introduced by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., would set aside as much as $263 million over the next five fiscal years for use by the General Services Administration to outfit new and existing federal buildings with advanced photovoltaic solar electrical systems. Photovoltaic refers to the ability to produce voltage when certain materials are exposed to radiant energy, especially light.

"Now, the federal government spends $8 billion a year on utility costs for the 500,000 federal government offices that it operates, and we could save a considerable amount of money by retrofitting federal government buildings with photovoltaic cells," Oberstar told lawmakers when the amendment was introduced.

The legislation would require the installation of 20,000 photovoltaic solar energy systems in federal buildings by 2010. Oberstar and Norton hope that increasing the use of alternative energy sources in the federal government would expand the use of solar and other energy sources universally.

"It's time that the federal government went solar and set an example for the use of alternatives to fossil fuels for the rest of the country," Norton said. "Most federal office space that is located throughout the country and in the territories can benefit from the sun for all or part of the year. Over time, solar power could become the most efficient way to provide energy to federal buildings in many locations."

According to Paul Chistolini, deputy commissioner of the Public Buildings Service at GSA, some federal facilities are already using solar power.

"We have one of the largest GSA photovoltaic operations in the country out at our Suitland, Md. [Federal Center] operation," Chistolini said. "The capacity is 100 kilowatts, that's the equivalent of having 1,000 100-watt lightbulbs."

Another photovoltaic project is planned for the former Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak, Md., where GSA is building a $600,000 facility for the Food and Drug Administration.

"This bill is a mechanism to try and encourage GSA, as well as other federal agencies, to look at photovoltaic technology and apply it where it makes sense, even to the point of using it where it will help the development of the technology," Chistolini said.

GSA uses other alternative energy sources in many of buildings it owns and manages, including energy efficient windows, different methods for heating water, and solar heaters at some remote Border Patrol stations, Chistolini explained.

"We have different strategies for different economic locations," Chistolini said. "Out in California they generate a lot of electricity by wind power…and as the unit costs go down out in California, we buy electricity that's generated by this wind power. At other locations we will aggregate all the federal demand for electricity and buy it in larger quantities and thereby get a better price."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.