DOE releases guide for doing large-scale PV on federal facilities

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A PV installation at Nellis Air Force baseThe U.S. government will likely be one of solar’s largest customers across the country, with the armed forces making significant commitments to solar and renewable energy, as well as the thousands of facilities the federal government has across the nation. But as with many parts of the country, the government had not had a standard process for going solar, particularly for larger projects, like those over 10 megawatts that could take up an abandoned field at an army base or acreage at a federal facility. It does now.

The federal government and its agencies are quickly adding more renewable energy. The Department of Defense, for instance, already has a goal of installing 3 gigawatts of renewable energy at its installations by 2025. And the federal government could add a lot more renewable energy as well. “Federal energy policies, requirements, and goals require the development of nearly three gigawatts of renewable power projects over the next decade,” the DOE’s Division of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) said. For instance, this past fall the Army issued a request for proposals for up to $7 billion of solar and renewable energy projects.

On March 11, the DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program Issued the “Large-Scale Renewable Energy Guide: Developing Renewable Energy Projects Larger than 10 MWs at Federal Facilities”. The guide offers federal facilities pursuing such projects a best practices resource for going solar on the large-scale, offering facilities a framework that includes project management strategies, common terms, and methods to help reduce issues and promote partnerships between the federal government, private developers, and financiers. “Improving coordination on large-scale renewable energy projects will help ensure successful projects while diversifying our energy supply, creating jobs, and advancing national goals for energy security,” DOE said.

“To accomplish Federal goals for renewable energy, sustainability, and energy security, large-scale renewable energy projects must be developed and constructed on Federal sites at a significant scale with significant private investment,” according to the guide. Despite developing the incentive programs that have encouraged much of the expansion in the renewable energy market in the U.S. is that the federal government itself isn’t eligible for those incentives. As such, it has to engage third-party owners or financiers to take advantage of the incentives and share those savings with the government.