U.S. DOE Headquarters to Get $30 M Solar PV System

In many scenarios by leading renewable energy experts and advocates, placing solar systems on all Federal buildings has long been on the list of breakthrough strategies to boost the U.S. solar power industry through government procurement. That scenario is now one step closer to becoming a reality with the Solar Net project.

On Monday, the House of Representatives passed new legislation for the installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) building — with hopes that the project will serve as a model for other government buildings. “This system is an important milestone for the U.S. DOE. It’s important that they not only showcase technology, but that they demonstrate market leadership. There is an enormous solar opportunity on government buildings at local, state and federal levels, and this highly visible project should further spur other agencies to pursue the solar option,” said Mark Farber, vice president of Strategic Planning at Evergreen Solar, a Massachusetts- based company that develops and manufactures PV modules and solar cells. While one building does not a movement make, with the decision emanating from the government itself people are taking notice — especially considering the attached price tag. The new bill, H.R. 798, directs the General Service Administration to spend $30 million for a 300 foot long, 130 foot high solar array on the south wall of the DOE headquarters (also known as the James Forrestal Building) located on Independence Avenue in Washington, D.C. “Turning the DOE into a solar power generating station sends a powerful message that solar will be an important part of the nation’s energy portfolio going forward,” said Noah Kaye, the Director of Public Affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). For 72-year old Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) the passage of H.R. 798 and the undertaking of the Solar Net project has been a long-time coming. In 1977, Oberstar testified before the Public Works Committee, which was later renamed the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in support of renewable sources and fitting federal buildings with solar energy systems. “What better symbol than the Department of Energy itself, to operate on renewable energy? Let’s showcase this project. Let’s show definitively this works,” said Oberstar, who is now chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “The federal government should play a central role in encouraging innovation in developing new sources of energy. The Solar Net project is a reasonable, practical and simple alternative to traditional electricity sources,” added Oberstar. “It is only fitting that the Energy Department be at the cutting edge of utilizing and supporting applied research in alternative energy sources.”
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