Fort Detrick Breaks Ground on Renewable Energy Project

Fort Detrick and U.S. Army leadership, alongside federal, state and local officials, broke ground on an estimated $35 million dollar project to install solar panels that will provide Fort Detrick with renewable energy on Wednesday, April 1.

The project will include 60,000 solar panels on 67 of the 399 acres of land on Fort Detrick’s Area B. The micro-grid-compatible solar facility will provide approximately 10 percent of Fort Detrick’s energy requirement and will significantly contribute to the Army’s energy security objectives.

Fort Detrick was selected in 2011 as an Army pilot site to become NetZero for energy use by 2020. Under that plan, Fort Detrick aims to create as much energy on post as it consumes. In addition to the solar panel installation, Fort Detrick is also exploring other ways to conserve energy by increasing awareness about turning lights off and unplugging or turning off office equipment when not in use.

“We made a commitment to be a net zero community for energy,” said Maj. Gen. Brian C. Lein, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick. “The development of this 15 megawatt unit is going to significantly decrease our burden on the local environment, the local power grid and [it] provides sustainable power.”

The project is a milestone for Fort Detrick and the Army as they seek to improve energy efficiency. The Army is currently working more than two dozen projects in 14 states. The projects include solar, wind, biodiesel, biomass and combined heat and power, and are expected to contribute more than 400 megawatts of renewable energy.

“Last year alone, the Army spent over $1.3 billion dollars on facilities energy. In an effort to reduce our dependency, consumption and spending on energy, the Army made a commitment to the President to deploy 1 gigawatt of renewable energy on our installations by the year 2025. This is equivalent to the electricity needed to power approximately 750,000 homes,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

“This project, the second largest solar project to be constructed on an Army installation, is an excellent example of the extraordinary results we can achieve through collaboration. It is a collaborative effort amongst the Army, Fort Detrick and the Defense Logistics Agency - Energy.

The Army will continue to partner with the private sector and all key stakeholders to expand renewable energy initiatives on our installations. By working together, we can ensure a more sustainable world for future generations.”

The 15 metawatt solar project on Fort Detrick includes a 25-year electricity purchase agreement between Fort Detrick and Massachusetts-based Ameresco.

“Upon completion a year from now in March 2016 and when operating at peak capacity, the new system will meet approximately 35 percent of Fort Detrick’s peak electric demand. And every year it will generate enough emission-free power to serve 12 percent of Fort Detrick’s total annual electric load requirements,” said George Sakellaris, president and chief executive officer, chairman of the board of directors of Ameresco, Inc. “This system will reduce greenhouse gases by 19,000 metric tons of CO2 per year - the equivalent to carbon sequestered by more than 487,000 trees in a single year.”

These efforts will serve not only the Army, but also state and local community energy needs. Additionally the project will create nearly 60 local construction jobs.

Fort Detrick conducted a Programmatic Environmental Assessment in 2011 to help finalize the plan. Other renewable energy resources, including wind and geothermal, were also considered. The comments received were supportive of the solar panel installation.

The project will be fully operational by 2016.

Baltimore District formed a project development team with Headquarters, USACE, to provide key technical support to the Army leadership and Fort Detrick for this complex project. The team included (from Real Estate Division) Douglas McWilliams, Carla Wall, Ron Santos and Bill Shockney, chief, Installation Support Branch; Michael Shields, Office of Counsel; and Lisa Grossman (USACE real estate) and Dominic Frinzi (USACE Office of Counsel).

McWilliams was the district’s point of contact for this project.  He participated in conference calls and meetings that were coordinated by representatives of the Army's Office of Energy Initiatives, the Defense Logistics Agency and Fort Detrick.  NAB's specific taskers included preparation and review of an appraisal (Wall), preparation and review of a survey that produced site drawings and legal descriptions for the three development areas (Santos), preparation and negotiation of the exhibits for the Lease (McWilliams and Shields), preparation and negotiation of additional real estate documents (two easements and a license) (McWilliams and Shields), and direct support of Headquarters, USACE Office of General Counsel’s negotiation of selected edits to the draft lease template (McWilliams and Shields).

Contracting Division aided in the procurement of real estate appraisal services. In addition, a  surveyor produced the required drawings to specifically identify the government property to be used for the solar farm.

Clem Gaines, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, contributed to this story.