Ameresco completes 18 MW-DC PV plant on former Army waste site in Maryland

Grounbreaking on the project at Fort Detrick

Today energy services provider Ameresco announced that it has completed an 18 MW-DC (15 MW-AC) ground-mounted solar PV project at a the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Detrick in the state of Maryland.

At nearly 60,000 PV modules, this is one of the largest PV plants on the U.S. East Coast to be completed to date. The area between Washington D.C. and Boston is the mostly densely populated part of the United States, and as such large contiguous areas of land are hard to come by.

The plant is located on Fort Detrick’s Area B, which was a proving ground for biological warfare and a disposal area for chemical, biological and radiological material until 1970. Area B is on a list of sites eligible for the U.S. government’s “superfund” program, a designation for polluted locations which require a long-term clean-up.

Controversy over contamination of groundwater under Area B with trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene, which includes potential impacts on the area’s water supply, is ongoing.

Ameresco will own and operate the plant and supply electricity generated to the U.S. Army under a 25-year power purchase agreement, which will meet around 12% of Fort Detrick’s annual electric demand. Additionally the plant is designed to be compatible with a micro-grid.

Fort Detrick aims to produce as much energy as it consumes by 2020. And while they have not received the level of press of other initiatives such as the widely maligned and misunderstood federal Loan Guarantee Program, the Obama Administration has set strong goals for federal renewable energy use, which includes the Department of Defense.

Not only is the U.S. Army part of a federal goal to procure 30% of electric needs from renewable energy by 2025, but it plans to reach net-zero energy consumption by 2030, and to deploy 1 GW of renewable energy on Army installations by 2025.