Federal Agencies Find Cost-Effective Opportunities for Small Renewable Energy Applications

July 28, 2004

Large, new federal renewable energy systems are widely publicized for the contribution they make to the nation's energy supply. At the same time, federal agencies are taking advantage of opportunities to install small, cost effective renewable energy systems in all parts of the country. Together these smaller systems also make important contributions.

Here are just a few examples of small renewable energy projects that have been supported by FEMP through the DOE Midwest, Northeastern, and Southeastern Regional Offices:

Photo of wind turbine
This 20-Kilowatt wind turbine in Rapid City, SD, supplies power to the Federal Aviation Administration's Remote Center Air/Ground Communications Facility

Putting wind to work in South Dakota

To provide power for air-to-ground communications, the Federal Aviation Administration recently installed a 20-kilowatt wind turbine at its Rapid City, SD, Remote Center Air/Ground Communications Facility. Before the installation, this remote site relied on electricity from a rural electric cooperative that was supplemented by a backup diesel generator to ensure reliable power for pilot communications.

The new wind system includes batteries for storage. When the turbine generates more energy than is needed and the batteries are fully charged, the excess energy is sold back to the electric co-op. Having a clean, reliable source of power was the main purpose of this project, but it has also reduced conventional energy use at the site by 40 percent.

Solar-supported research off the coast of Maine

At the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses several islands off the coast of Maine, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has installed two small photovoltaic (PV) systems. The refuge has also obtained two mobile systems and will soon be finished installing two additional small systems, each rated from 360 to 480 watts.

Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge has been actively involved in restoring populations of colonial nesting seabirds to Maine's coastal islands. Energy is needed to power research equipment there from April to September each year for computers, sound systems, cell phones, Federal Agencies Find Cost-Effective Opportunities for Small Renewable Energy Applications lights, and camp equipment. Transporting gasoline and propane to fuel generators is both difficult and dangerous, so PV is the most viable and cost-effective energy source for the refuge.

PV power for a sanctuary in the Florida Keys

Sixty-eight miles west of Key West, FL, is a 64,000-acre marine sanctuary consisting of seven small islands (only two are developed) and coral reefs. The National Park Service installed energy conservation equipment and a 14.4-kilowatt PV system at Loggerhead Key, Dry Tortugas National Park. That island contains a historic lighthouse, two residences, a water house, water and fuel tanks, and a boat house. Volunteer caretakers live on the island in the smaller residence, and visitors stay in the larger one.

Before PV was installed, diesel generators supplied all the island's electric power. Through an energy conservation program, NPS was able to reduce by twothirds the energy load of 165 kilowatthours per day. PV-supplied electricity is used for staff and visitors needs as well as to power a reverse osmosis water treatment system. The PV system has a simple payback of less than 5 years, making it very cost-effective. In fact, solar and wind systems are usually costeffective in comparison to large diesel generators that have to run small loads for long periods of time.

If you have questions about the applicability of renewable energy systems for your site, please call your FEMP regional representative; for information, see the FEMP Web site. For vendors, the GSA supply schedule lists several for renewable energy; search for the word "solar" then click on "SIN 206 3" for more information.