How does the US Federal Government see decentralized energy? Although progress towards converting the Capitol Power Plant – which serves the US Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress and 19 other federal buildings in Washington DC – into a full gas-fired cogeneration plant has been slow, several other federal entities are marching forward into a decentralized energy future.
Dating back to 1910, Washington’s Capitol Power Plant originally supplied heat, cooling and electricity to buildings throughout the US Capitol campus from coal-fired boilers, but power generation was ended in the 1950s in favour of supplies from the local utility. In recent years, the Architect of the Capitol has steadily reduced coal burn in favour of gas, and has developed plans to convert the plant to gas-fired CHP, so far without getting over the finishing line.
By contrast, earlier this month the US Department of Energy granted nearly $3 million to support the installation of decentralized renewable energy – solar PV and biomass – schemes to serve federal government facilities both around the US and outside the country.
First, the State Department is installing PV technology at 10 overseas diplomatic posts, to add 12 MW of distributed renewables generating capacity – the schemes will be operated under a single energy savings performance contract. Meanwhile, the US Forest Service is deploying a series of roof, ground and carport-mounted PV schemes – totalling 800 MW – across 11 of its facilities in Oregon and Washington. The solar panels will generate 100% of the electricity needs of four of these sites.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is adding 800 kW of PV panels to its El Paso Intelligence Center in Texas. Last, the US Marine Corps is installing a 10 MW biomass-fuelled steam generator to serve its Albany, Georgia site.
Separately, another federal building Washington DC is having two Capstone microturbines fitted, operating in CHP mode to provide 1 MW of electricity generating capacity and over 300 tonnes of chilled water for the building’s cooling system. Capstone distributor E-Finity Distributed Generation secured the order, and is also installing a 1 MW microturbine to serve a Marine Corps base in Virginia.
The US Federal Government is a keen promoter of the benefits of CHP through its Department of Energy-backed regional Technical Assistance Partnerships – it is also garnering some of those benefits for itself.