U.S. Government Nears Renewable Energy Goal

While the renewable energy industries are still overshadowed by traditional fossil fuels at the federal level in terms of both support and funding, a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) claims some overall improvements in their commitments to the fledgling industries.

Washington D.C. – August 26, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] As of February 2003, Federal agencies are using almost 663 GWh of new renewable energy, almost halfway to the 1,384 GWh needed to reach 2.5 percent of Federal electricity consumption by 2005. Total Federal renewable energy has almost doubled from the 362 GWh reported in September 2002. Notable gains include the NASA’s new landfill gas project in Maryland that accounts for the equivalent of 108.5 GWh (370 billion Btu) of biomass thermal contribution. This is a preliminary estimate of the output of the plant since it only has limited operating experience. Biomass transportation fuels-E85 (85 percent ethanol) and biodiesel-increased from the equivalent of 10 to 18 GWh from the last report. The other big success is renewable energy purchases and purchases of renewable energy credits, which increased from 127 GWh to more than 310 GWh (equivalent to 310 million kWh). Most of this green power is generated from wind turbines. Government demand for wind power through renewable power purchases is booming. The Department of Defense alone has more than 19 agreements to purchase renewable energy or renewable energy credits, totaling more than 215 GWh annually. The Air Force is also considering installation of additional wind turbines in the Azores, adding to total wind power generation. Photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems continue to increase, including the 750 kW PV system at Naval Base Coronado in California that was partially financed by a Super Energy Savings Performance Contract. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Departments of the Navy and the Army are steadily developing a full complement of solar water heating systems in Hawaii. There are now approximately 3,400 Federal solar roof systems, including a new PV system and a solar water heating system installed by the National Park Service on the White House grounds in Washington D.C. The goal for 2010 is the installation of 20,000 solar roofs. Several hundred solar water heating systems planned for Hawaii are expected to be completed in 2003. New data on geothermal heat pump (GHP) installations will be analyzed and added to the Federal renewable energy total. GHP installations are taking off thanks to DOE’s GHP technology-specific Super Energy Savings Performance Contract-a substantial increase in renewable energy levels is expected. Applications for the development of renewable energy projects on Federal lands are being facilitated by the Department of the Interior. The resulting projects may be installed in time to contribute toward the goal for 2005. Federal agencies have reported even more renewable energy usage on their FY 2002 Federal Energy Management Scorecards. A detailed analysis of the scorecards and background data is currently underway to ensure that all projects meet the criteria for qualifying towards the goal. So the current Federal renewable energy count is conservative. FEMP said it is important to note that the renewable energy total of 663 GWh only counts renewable energy from projects or power purchases that were signed after 1990, because the intent of Executive Order 13123 was to encourage the use of new renewable energy. Pioneering projects like the COSO Geothermal Plant at China Lake Naval Weapons Station in California and Keflavik Air Force Base in Iceland have been using large amounts of renewable energy since the 1980s. There are also many small biomass projects and thousands of solar systems that agencies installed before 1990. While they cannot be counted toward the 2.5 percent renewable energy goal, they paved the way for today’s renewable energy projects and have been making a steady contribution to our energy security and environment for nearly 20 years, said Crawley.
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