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In my last post for The Intersection, I let folks in on the potential energy and carbon savings from software that would automatically turn off computers across various federal executive departments. At the time, I also referenced a much earlier post of mine on the potential of existing buildings to serve as solar generators on the U.S. Electric grid.
Well, someone must have been listening. In the 15 September 2008 issue of Federal Times, there is a small notice about a new solar panel installation on the Department of Energy building in Washington, D.C. They have put 891 panels on the roof of the building, totaling 14,000 square feet of photovoltaic generating capacity. DOE estimates that they will reduce their carbon footprint by 270 tons per year, generating 8 % of the electricity they need per year. And, if they have a grid interconnection agreement with Pepco (as all residential solar projects in D.C. are required to), they will be pumping solar generated electricity int o the grid on weekends. Energy will also have the ability to operate some basic systems if the grid goes down, which is important in a city that is a terrorist target.
I know, I hear the skeptics sharpening their knives now. One building won’t address the global problem they say. Even if, as Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman suggests, every federal agency replicates this across the nation, it won’t have too much more impact because of China dn India others will opine. You can’t solve the problem with solar panels others will entone, so why bother?
All those are valid points, but they miss the opportunity here. Just like my computer example, the Energy solar installation is an example of a federal agency taking the lead, to show how effective an alternative energy solution can be. Sure, one building won’t make it all better, but 1500 buildings? 2000 buildings? Once you get to that scale, I’m not so ure that we can dismiss the change that will be made. So why not try?