Berkeley Lab Facilitates 18.6-megawatt PV facility at Army’s Fort Detrick, Maryland

December 2013

The Army, on Friday November 29, announced a notice of intent to award a contract to build an 18.6-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) facility at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland. This action will help the service meet its goal of deploying one gigawatt of renewable energy by 2025. The selected contractor is Framingham, Mass.-based Ameresco.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), through its Environmental Energy Technologies Division, provided essential technical services, over a span of two years, to make this project happen. Supported by the Federal Energy Management Program, Berkeley Lab renewable power expert Gerald Robinson provided the Army, Fort Detrick staff, its Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), its contracting service Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), with help on:

  • Performing the initial site survey and producing a full technical, financial and legal/interconnection feasibility and scoping study.
  • Working with garrison to establish a working group between Berkeley Lab, Fort Detrick, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and DLA, and holding the team together with scheduling, meeting minutes, and issue-tracking procedures.
  • Guiding the working group through numerous technical and legal (state interconnection) issues, and successfully resolving them with the garrison and serving utility.
  • Coining the concept of "Micro-Grid ready" in order to enable future use of the solar PV system during power outage or national emergencies. Worked with team to develop specifications for "Micro-Grid Ready" Request for Proposals (RFP) language.
  • Providing technical solutions to interconnect the PV system to the main garrison electrical distribution system, reduce line losses, and support the ability to establish a micro-grid.
  • Supporting the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process by providing technical information needed to complete the EA (environmental assessment) study.
  • Working with EITF and NREL to transition the project to larger size.
  • Reviewing technical specifications written by NREL and DLA

The post will purchase all power generated by the solar plant at a cost equal to or less than current electricity costs. Ameresco will finance, design, build, operate, own, and maintain the production facilities at Fort Detrick, under the terms of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which Berkeley Lab helped the Army to negotiate.

The notice of intent to award issued by the Defense Logistics Agency Energy does not constitute a formal contract award, but brings the project closer to contract award and groundbreaking. Before the Army formally awards Ameresco a contract, the two parties need to complete additional actions.

Charles H. Williams