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.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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