Fort Detrick’s solar installation offsetting 19,000 metric tons of GHG a year

Fort Detrick, located in Fredrick, Maryland, was one of the first Army pilot installations targeting net-zero energy, water, and waste by 2020. The selection, which was made under the Army Net-Zero Pilot Installation Initiative announced in 2010, empowered the post to explore additional conservation measures, various alternative sources of energy including thermal and solar, and expanding an already robust recycling and waste management system to meet today’s and future national security missions.

Net-zero energy installations first focused on reducing energy through conservation, followed by energy efficiency. After reducing energy use as much as possible and implementing energy-efficient technologies, net-zero energy installations implement energy recovery, and cogeneration where feasible. Lastly, these installations use onsite renewable energy sources to meet remaining energy demands.

Fort Detrick’s portfolio of buildings includes the energy-intensive Walter Reed Army Medical Center, by far the largest source of demand at the site. To trim energy use, Fort Detrick personnel oversaw the installation of over 30 smart meters to improve management of energy systems. Exterior lighting was upgraded to solid-state light-emitting diode (LED) street light fixtures and the base’s centralized steam boiler plant has been updated with high-efficiency distributed boilers. However, the high construction and labor costs at the garrison’s location near Washington, D.C., make cost-effective upgrades a challenge.

By far, the biggest impact on Fort Detrick’s energy use footprint has been installation of onsite renewable energy, specifically an aggressive rollout of solar photovoltaic (PV) across the garrison. This central net-zero energy strategy includes an 18-megawatt (MW) solar farm, which has been fully operational since February 2016. Another 200 kilowatts (kW) of rooftop solar has been in operation since June 2016, and FY19, another planned onsite 7-MW solar farm will provide electricity to the installation’s central utility plant. These projects will effectively double Fort Detrick’s onsite renewable energy generation in five years.

The large-scale solar project is comprised of 59,994 solar panels installed across 67 acres of land throughout Area B at Fort Detrick. The facility is one of the single-largest in the mid-Atlantic region as well as in Maryland. The project is designed to serve about 12% of Fort Detrick’s annual electric load requirements and will be owned and operated by Ameresco through a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Fort Detrick will have the economic benefit of purchasing the renewable electricity below current and projected utility rates and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the site by 19,000 metric tons annually.